central library exteriors
Computers & Technology Directions Events and Exhibits
Hours & Directions Car, Bicycle & Motorcycle Parking Meeting Rooms
Reception & Event Booking Tours
A Handbook to the Art and Architecture of the Boston Public Library

The Johnson Building

The McKim Building

Access Services

Access Services houses computers equipped with adaptive technology which are available for use by people with disabilities. Also available is a circulating collection of materials relating to conversation groups, ESL, GED, citizenship, and literacy.


The Arts Department services reference, circulating and non-circulating books, magazines, journals, and special collections about both art and music.  Areas covered include art history, architecture, painting sculpture, drawing, design, illustration, decorative arts, and antiques, with special materials focused on the art and architecture of New England.  The department also holds some City of Boston Building Department records of Boston Buildings, c.1879 to 1966. Music subjects and special collections cover musical study including biography, ethnomusicology, history and criticism, music education, theory, and composition as well as the collected editions of all the major composers, many musical first editions, and other rare items.

ASA College Planning

American Student Assistance (ASA), a national non-profit organization offering education loans for undergraduate, graduate, and professional study. ASA's goal is to increase the chances for people from varied backgrounds to successfully complete higher education.


Delivery Desk — Newspapers, Magazines & Books

Books and periodical titles with a location of Delivery Desk in the catalog cannot be checked out, but you can ask to use them in-library with a library or guest card at the Delivery Desk for Newspapers, Magazines and Books. Requests are taken up to the last 25 minutes before closing time. Magazines over five years old are in remote storage and may take at least 24 hours to retrieve. You may also call ahead to request a title.

Borrower Services

Staff in the Borrower Services department will help you get library cards and check out materials.


The Microtext Department has the majority of the library's microfilm, microfiche, and microprint research collections. The department also houses the historical newspaper collections. Access to newspaper print indexes, city directories, and genealogy and obituary resources is also available here.

Children's Services

The Children's Library offers a variety of books, audiovisual materials, children's programming and magazines for children from pre-school age to 12.  Reference books and curriculum development materials are also available for parents, teachers, and researchers.

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center

The NBL Map Center seeks to preserve, catalog, study, and exhibit the BPL's historically significant collection of 350,000 (World, European, and United States) maps. For more information regarding the map center, please contact us at 617-859-2506 or e-mail to maps@bpl.org. Also, visit our expanded website with current programs, exhibits and general information.

Kirstein Business Library

The Kirstein Business Library offers both reference and circulating materials focused on career and job hunting information, entrepreneurial resources, assistance to investors, and other business topics.

Prints and Photographs

The Print Department has built collections that today total over 100,000 prints and drawings and 650,000 photographs, making it one of the largest public collections of prints in the United States. Among the outstanding holdings are works by Rembrandt, Durer, Rowlandson, Goya, Daumier, Toulouse-Lautrec and Boston Artists. Service is by appointment only.


The latest editions of the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, New York Times and USA Today can be found in the Kirstein Business Library. Older newspapers can be viewed in the Microtext Department

Rare Books and Manuscripts

The Rare Books and Manuscripts Department houses more than 600,000 printed items and 1 million manuscripts. Among the important holdings are large collections on Colonial and Revolutionary Massachusetts, The Personal Library of John Adams, Anti-Slavery Manuscripts, the Barton Collection of Shakesperiana, The Theodore Parker Collection, the William Addison Dwiggins Collection, and the Galatea Collection on the History of Women. In addition there are many important examples of medieval manuscripts, incunabula, and fine printing.

Reference & Reader's Advisory

Librarians offer suggestions in personal reading, and assist in navigating the circulating collections (including world language) and electronic resources. Librarians also assist with the microfiche catalog, which covers materials collected by the library before 1974, as well as the many online catalogs and electronic databases.

Reference & Reader's Advisory

Reference librarians are available for in-depth reference assistance in the sciences and humanities in addition to reference assistance through a wide range of electronic research collections.

Tech Central

In addition to being a free wireless hotspot, the Central Library offers 64 computers available for an hour at a time and 20 computers for 15 minute internet access.


Social Sciences

The Social Sciences Department maintains a reference collection covering topics as diverse as anthroplogy, coins and medals, criminology, education, family studies, history, political science, social history, sociology, transportation, and women's studies. Among the many highlights of the department are the genealogy and local history resources. The department collects and houses publications from all levels of government including federal, state, and city, as well as select publications of foreign governments. The department is also a depository for patents and trademarks. Some legal materials such as case law, statutes, and regulations can also be found.

Teen Services

The Teen Room serves the information needs of teens ages 12-18. Highlights include: fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels; college guides, career study guides, and exam books; books on CD and anime DVDs. The Teen Room hosts video gaming, a Teen Advisory Council, a variety of workshops, Anime and Manga Society, and crafts of all kinds. Filtered Internet computer access is available with a valid library card.

Special Collections

The Boston Public Library holds special collections in a wide variety of subjects. Special collection material does not circulate and must be used under staff supervision within the Research Library. Titles from the Alice M. Jordan Children's Literature Collection can be requested at Book Delivery to be viewed in the Rare Books Reading Room.