Press Room

Reading to Dogs at the Boston Public Library

Posted on April 6th, 2016 by BPL News in General


Harvard Dangerfield at the Children’s Library. Photo courtesy of Dana Sullivan.

One Saturday a month, the Central Library’s Children’s Library hosts a very special visitor – an 11-year-old fluffy white Samoyed named Harvard Dangerfield. Harvard, accompanied by his owner Dana Sullivan, comes to help children practice reading as part of the Reading Pup program, open to children ages 3-12 and their caregivers. Though Harvard can’t help sound out or explain the meaning of words, he can provide something equally valuable: a patient, gentle demeanor that allows children to read aloud without fear of correction or judgement.

A Reading Pup program begins with a brief introduction by a Children’s Librarian to Harvard and his work (he also visits elementary schools, hospitals, and nursing homes, among others), followed by a dog-themed story time. Then, the children in attendance take turns reading to him. The youngest visitors with no reading skills often tell him stories, while the older children read from a selection of books about dogs provided by the library or ones that they have brought themselves. Harvard calmly and happily listens and greatly enjoys socializing with the kids; according to Sullivan, the Children’s Library is one of his favorite places to visit.

In addition to providing children with an encouraging and nonjudgmental audience, he also gives them the opportunity to grow comfortable interacting with dogs. Sullivan and the librarians help by showing the children how to best greet him.


Gus and his owner Candice at the Charlestown Branch.

“His fluffy fur provides a sensory experience for young children, and older children enjoy giving him a hug or feeding him treats,” said Children’s Services Team Leader Laura Koenig. “Parents and caregivers especially like knowing that he is a certified therapy dog who will be patient and gentle with children who are still learning how to safely interact with dogs.”

Other Boston Public Library locations also host therapy dogs as part of their children’s programming. The Charlestown Branch, for instance, offers the Read to a Dog program with Gus, a one-and-a-half-year-old Yorkshire Terrier. On a cloudy afternoon in late March, Gus brightens up the branch with his cheerful and gentle demeanor. He perches on a cushion next to his owner Candice Deluty while Annabell, a six-year-old, reads him the book Biscuit Loves the Library. Then, he listens as ten-year-old Tess reads from the chapter book The Underneath. According to Eileen Whittle, the Charlestown’s Children’s Librarian who organized the event, therapy dogs are crucial to helping kids build fluency in oral reading in a positive, open environment.

Children aren’t the only ones who benefit from Gus’s and Harvard’s library visits. As Deluty says, Gus cheers up everyone, including adults and the library staff. Sullivan adds that age has no effect on a person’s response to Harvard, as he is met with squeals of delight from the young and old wherever he goes. Visit our calendar at to find an upcoming therapy dog program for your child, including visits from Maggie at the Mattapan Branch every other Tuesday.

“The Black Community in Colonial Dorchester and Boston” Lecture Turns into a Spirited Discussion Among Historians, Subject Experts, and the Curious.

Posted on March 31st, 2016 by in General

Yesterday’s Boston Public Library Local and Family History Series lecture on The Black Community in Colonial Dorchester and Boston felt more like a lively discussion among a group of historians than a one-person presentation. Historian Alex Goldfeld opened the night with an acknowledgement of the expertise of the people in the room and invited many voices to chime in about the lives of African Americans in colonial New England.

Goldfeld used letters and documents to examine the dark circumstances that originally brought African Americans to New England. Goldfeld displayed and used a correspondence to John Winthrop to explain that early white colonialist traded captured Native Americans, cotton, and fish for African American slaves.  White colonists’ belief that African Americans would be more obedient than Native Americans due to their lack of familiarity with the land contributed to the rise of the African American population in Boston during mid to late 1600s. The letter also expressed the belief that without slave labor, New England could never grow and flourish to its full potential.

The subject of land ownership was a topic Goldfeld embarked on through documentation of a free African American Sebastian Kane’s purchase of a slave’s freedom. In the transaction paper, dated 1656, Kane put his property in Dorchester up as collateral for the payment, proving he was one of the first, if not the first, African American landowner in Boston. An audience member added that Zipporah Potter Atkins, an African American woman, is believed to have owned property in the North End around 1670. The rarity, if not the impossibility, of an African American woman owning and keeping property at that time was noted and discussed.

Another subject of debate was the discovery of the smallpox vaccine by Cotton Mather. Goldfeld discussed the smallpox epidemic of 1721, infecting roughly half of Boston’s population. At this time in history, China, India, and Africa had been practicing types of inoculation, but this type of preventative care was unknown to the people of New England. Goldfeld explained to the group that Mather got the idea from one of his slaves, and fought for the procedure to become widespread. An audience member piped in to provide the slave’s name, Onesimus, and to suggest he had a much bigger role in the development and implementation of the vaccine than Goldfeld originally suggested.

When Goldfeld concluded his lecture by mentioning that he was over the allotted time, the audience murmured in disbelief that the hour had flown by so quickly. Goldfeld thanked the group and the many voices who contributed to the discussion. Leaving the Commonwealth Salon, it was clear to the audience that The Black Community in the Colonial Dorchester and Boston is a topic that will continue to be studied, debated, and shared for a long time to come.

April Literary Events and Programs at Boston Public Library Locations

Posted on March 29th, 2016 by BPL News in Media Releases
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booksBoston Public Library offers a multitude of literary events and celebrates National Poetry Month throughout the system in April:

  • Poet Barbara Helfgott Hyett holds an 8-week poetry program for adults 55+ beginning on Monday, April 4, at 2 p.m. at the South End Branch. Please call 617.536.8241 to register.
  • Jen Doyle reads from Calling It, her first published novel, which details a couple’s journey falling in love on Tuesday, April 5, at 6:30 p.m. at the Faneuil Branch, located at 419 Faneuil Street in Brighton.
  • Quincy Carroll discusses his debut novel Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside, which tells the story of two Americans living and teaching in rural China who fight to establish primacy in Ningyuan, a remote town in the south of Hunan, with one of their more overzealous students caught in the middle. Thursday, April 7, at 6 p.m. in the Commonwealth Salon at the Central Library in Copley Square, located at 700 Boylston Street.
  • The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center and The Trustees exhibition From the Sea to the Mountains: The Trustees 125th Anniversary opens April 2, featuring historic items documenting Massachusetts land from the past to the present. The Map Center is located in the Central Library at 700 Boylston Street.
  • Lisa E. Pearson, head of the Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library and Archives, speaks about her new book Arnold Arboretum, which details the rich history and collections of this National Historic Landmark on Monday, April 11, at 6:30 p.m. at the Charlestown Branch, located at 179 Main Street.
  • Anthony Mitchell Sammarco gives a lecture on Jordan Marsh, Boston’s first department store, on Monday, April 11, at 6:30 p.m. at the Adams Street Branch, located at 690 Adams Street in Dorchester.
  • Local poet Mary Pinard examines grief, sudden and everlasting, and the potential ways it can transform us in her recent book of poetry, Portal. Monday, April 11, at 6:30 p.m. at the West Roxbury Branch, located at 1961 Centre Street.
  • Margaret R. Sullivan, Records Manager and Archivist for the Boston Police Department, presents “On the Job: Ancestors Who Worked in the Public Sector and the Amazing Records They Left Behind” on Wednesday, April 13, at 6 p.m. in the Commonwealth Salon at the Central Library in Copley Square, located at 700 Boylston Street. Part of the Local & Family History Series.
  • The Associates of the Boston Public Library’s Writer-in-Residence, Jennifer De Leon, leads a poetry workshop on Wednesday, April 13, at 3 p.m. in Teen Central at the Central Library in Copley Square, located at 700 Boylston Street.
  • Peter Zheutlin reads from his book Rescue Road: One Man, Thirty Thousand Dogs, and a Million Miles on the Last Hope Highway on Thursday, April 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the Roslindale Branch, located at 4246 Washington Street.
  • Diane M. Boucher provides an overview of Freedmen’s Bureau officials’ efforts to provide education, health care, housing assistance, and employment arrangements to former slaves after the Civil War as a temporary means to self-sufficiency and independence on Wednesday, April 27, at 6 p.m. in the Commonwealth Salon at the Central Library in Copley Square, located at 700 Boylston Street. Part of the Local & Family History Series.
  • Join local poet Frances Donovan for a poetry workshop on Saturday, April 23, at 12 p.m. at the Roslindale Branch, located at 4246 Washington Street.
  • Celebrate National Poetry Month with Shel Silverstein’s poems and a fun activity on Monday, April 25, at 3:30 p.m. in the Children’s Library at the Central Library in Copley Square, located at 700 Boylston Street.
  • A poetry workshop in English and Spanish is offered on Saturday, April 30, at 11:30 a.m. at the Egleston Square Branch, located at 2044 Columbus Avenue.
  • View the Roslindale Branch’s Dreamy Italian Islands exhibition on display through April 30, in which local artist Maria Conte displays her paintings based on her memories of growing up in Italy. Meet the artist on Saturday, April 16, from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

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Leventhal Map Center Announces Connie Chin as New President

Posted on March 29th, 2016 by BPL News in Media Releases

The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center today announced that Connie C. Chin will join the Center as its new President. Ms. Chin was elected to the position yesterday by the Map Center’s Board of Directors after conducting nearly a year long search for an individual to replace Jan Spitz, who retired at the end of 2015.

“I am delighted to be asked to lead the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library. I look forward to continuing the unique and healthy public-private partnership of the Map Center, an independent nonprofit organization, with the City’s Boston Public Library. This is a moment when the Map Center is poised for strategic growth particularly in its mission areas of education for young people, and engagement for all ages, through both physical and digitized maps,” said Connie Chin.

Connie joins the Map Center with a strong background in non-profit management, having most recently served as the Chief Operating Officer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. In that capacity, Ms. Chin was responsible for managing internal operations, leading the team to produce an historic symposium in Tokyo about JFK’s legacy, and developing a strategy to support the digitization of President Kennedy’s archives. Previously, she worked for more than a decade as the General Manager of Jacob’s Pillow Dance, located in the Berkshires. Connie grew up in the Boston area and is a graduate of both Harvard University and the Yale School of Management.

“After a robust nationwide search, we are thrilled to welcome Connie Chin as our new President,” said Robert Melzer, Chair of the Map Center’s Board of Directors. “The retirement of Jan Spitz last year left big shoes to fill, but Connie’s management experience and passion made her the absolute best person for the job.”

“We welcome Connie Chin and are confident her work will further the mission of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center and bring forth enriching educational experiences for all to enjoy,” said David Leonard, Boston Public Library Interim President and ex-officio member of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Board of Directors.

Ms. Chin joins as the Map Center is preparing to open a new exhibition, From the Sea to the Mountains: The Trustees 125th Anniversary, which will run Saturday, April 2, 2016 through August 28, 2016. The exhibition is a collaboration between the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center and The Trustees, featuring maps, photographs, and historic items from both collections to document the Trustees 125-year history of stewardship, conservation, and access to over 100 properties throughout Massachusetts. The Trustees is Massachusetts’ largest conservation and preservation organization and the world’s first land preservation nonprofit known for caring for cultural, natural, and scenic sites for public use and enjoyment.


The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center is ranked among the top 10 map centers in the United States for the size of its collection, the significance of its historic (pre-1900) material, and its advanced digitization program. It is unique among the major collections because it also combines these features with exceptional educational and teacher training programs to advance geographic literacy among students in grades K-12 and enhance the teaching of subjects from history to mathematics to language arts. The collection is also the second largest in the country located in a public library, ensuring unlimited access to these invaluable resources for scholars, educators, and the general public. The Leventhal Map Center, created in 2004, is a nonprofit organization established as a public-private partnership between the Boston Public Library and philanthropist Norman Leventhal. Its mission is to use the Boston Public Library’s permanent collection of 200,000 maps and 5,000 atlases and a select group of rare maps collected by Mr. Leventhal for the enjoyment and education of all through exhibitions, educational programs, and a website that includes thousands of digitized maps at The map collection is global in scope, dating from the 15th century to the present, with a particular strength in maps and atlases of Boston, Massachusetts, and New England. To learn more, visit .

Boston Public Library has a Central Library, twenty-four branches, map center, business library, and a website filled with digital content and services. Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library has pioneered public library service in America. It was the first large free municipal library in the United States, the first public library to lend books, the first to have a branch library, and the first to have a children’s room. Each year, the Boston Public Library hosts thousands of programs and serves millions of people. All of its programs and exhibitions are free and open to the public. At the Boston Public Library, books are just the beginning. To learn more, visit



Author Colm Tóibín Visits the Boston Public Library for Saint Patrick’s Day

Posted on March 18th, 2016 by BPL News in General

ColmToibinThe Boston Public Library celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day with a visit from bestselling Irish author Colm Tóibín, a reading made possible through a partnership with the Consulate General of Ireland. The overflowing audience in the Central Library’s Abbey Room included Heather Humphreys, Ireland’s Minister for Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, and Consul General Fionnuala Quinlan.

BPL Trustee John Hailer introduced Minister Humphreys, who called Tóibín “one of the giants of Irish Literature.” The author then took to the podium to read from his novel Brooklyn. Recently adapted into an Oscar-nominated film starring Saoirse Ronan, the book follows Irish immigrant Eilis as she makes her way in 1950s Brooklyn. Tóibín read two passages, one which captures the immigrant experience of receiving letters from home, the other a scene on Christmas Day where Eilis volunteers at a church and is moved by an Irish singer. He mentioned that he recommended traditional Irish singer Iarla Ó Lionáird for the part in the movie’s Christmas scene.

He then took several questions from the audience. When asked what inspired him to write Brooklyn, he said the idea came from a visitor to his childhood home whose daughter lived in Brooklyn. Like Eilis in the novel, she had taken off her wedding ring on the boat ride home so her family wouldn’t know she was married and, therefore, would have to return to America. Following the Q & A, Tóibín signed copies of his novels. Attendees left calling the experience “wonderful” and a “great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.”

The Central Library’s Author Talk Series continues on Thursday, April 7, at 6 p.m. with Quincy Carroll, author of Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside.