The Boston Public Library is a spectacular institution with an extensive catalog of books, branches in every area of the city, and an interior to rival any major museum. But there are a lot of resources at the BPL Central Library in Copley Square that fly under the radar. It turns out the historic house of books has a lot more to offer than just fiction.
Wi-Fi Hotspots You Can Check Out
Finally, there’s an easy (and beyond affordable) answer to the dilemma “How will I access Wi-Fi while traveling?” The library recently launched a one-year pilot program for hot spots. You can check one out at no charge for up to 21 days of free Internet access anywhere in the continental United States. Each kit contains a hot spot device, Micro-USB cable, adapter, and instructions in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Haitian Creole.
There’s no data limit on the hot spots and no cost to use one unless you return it late (à la a library book). This is a great option if you’re going camping or traveling elsewhere with questionable Internet access, or for locals who don’t have a reliable Wi-Fi connection at home. While hot spots can’t be renewed, you can join a waitlist if they’re all in use.
Career Development Workshops
The Kirstein Business Library & Innovation Center (KBLIC) isn’t just for high school students who need help writing a cover letter. While it does provide assistance in résumé formatting and job application, the center also offers many helpful workshops for new business owners and those working the nine-to-five grind. Every month in partnership with the American Association of University Women, KBLIC hosts a free two-hour salary negotiation workshop for women. You’ll learn about the gender pay gap, how to conduct object market research to determine a fair salary, and how to negotiate for it in person. The next class is on Oct. 30.
Customized Reading List
Whether you love reading or you’re trying to develop the habit, choosing new books can be a job in itself. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend your time scouring the New York Times Best Seller list because the BPL will do it for you. If you have an online account (free and easy to set up with a library card), you can fill out a quick survey about the types of books you enjoy, which genres you dislike, and what you’re looking to read, and an actual librarian will create a custom reading list for you.
Maybe you want to read more women authors or female biographies but you don’t know where to start. Ask the experts. It’s free and only takes a few days turnaround. Plus, since it’s online, you can reserve those books with the click of a button.
You Can Have Fries with That
Since the Johnson Building reopened, the library has become a lot more relaxed about food. You can have bites and beverages while working or reading in many of the main spaces of the building as well as in the McKim Courtyard (you know, the pretty, iconic one). You don’t even have to bring your own sustenance: The library serves up its own eats and has moved way beyond turkey sandwiches and tea.
At the Newsfeed Café, while watching Jim Braude and Margery Eagan tape live for WGBH, you can snack on smoked salmon tartine with onion and herb crème fraîche. Plus, every day after 3 pm, you can order wine and beer to make your afternoon meeting a happy hour or to accent your new book with a smooth red.
A Master of Fine Arts Minus the Student Loans
It feels like you can get an advanced degree by taking advantage of all the free programs at the library. For one thing, the historic McKim Building is chock-full of artwork, most notably the John Singer Sargent murals on the third floor. It’s an enormous collection of hand-painted works by Sargent that is on view daily for free in the heart of Boston. The BPL also runs free Art and Architecture Tours every day. And the Johnson Building houses a gallery space with rotating, community-oriented contemporary exhibits.
The art isn’t just on the walls; the Archival Collections department features 235,000 rare or historically significant printed books and an estimated one million manuscripts. It also offers maps, prints, photographs, and newspapers, all of which are accessible by appointment to anyone with a library card. If you’re more of an auditory learner, the BPL hosts free lectures and talks every week, featuring authors, Boston historians, and social justice speakers.
Go, ahem, check it out!