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Print Department Closed for Inventory

Public service in the Print Department is currently suspended in order to complete an inventory of the 320,000 item collection. The Boston Public Library anticipates that the inventory will be finished in Spring 2016, at which time public service will resume. Many images from the Print Department can be found on the Digital Commonwealth and Flickr. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Research Services

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.

The Arts — Fine Arts & Music
Fine Arts: 617-859-2275
Music: 617-859-2285

The Arts Department includes the subject areas of Fine Arts and Music. Fine Arts collections include reference and non-circulating books and journals about art history, architecture, painting, sculpture, drawing, design, illustration, decorative arts, and antiques; City of Boston Building Department records of Boston Buildings, c.1879 to 1966; and many special materials focusing on the art and architecture of New England (most viewed by appointment only). Music collections include reference and non-circulating books and journals about music history, criticism, education, theory, and composition; historical editions of music; as well as a large collection of early music imprints and manuscripts.

Government Information

The Government Information 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 as well as for many United Nations publications. Some legal materials such as case law, statutes, and regulations can also be found.

Kirstein Business Library

Kirstein Business Library is a specialized business reference and research service currently located in Bates Hall in the McKim Building. The department houses the Funding Information Network resources for those researching foundations, grants, and grant writing.


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.

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.

Please visit our website.

If you would like more information regarding the map center, please contact us at 617-859-2387 or e-mail


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. Currently closed for inventory.

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

The Reference & Reader's Advisory Department provides reference services on all subjects as well as in-depth reference in the sciences and humanities. Reference & Reader's Advisory also accepts requests for interlibrary loan materials (items not owned by the library). 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.

Social Sciences

The Social Sciences Department maintains a reference collection covering topics as diverse as anthroplogy, business and economics, 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.

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 Central 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.

Special Services

Interlibrary Loan

If the Boston Public Library does not own a particular book or publication, we can get it for you through our Interlibrary Loan services.

Literacy Services

The Boston Public Library offers a wide range of materials for adults learning to read, and those learning to speak English.