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Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library Facts

The library was founded in 1848. It was the first large free municipal library in the United States. It began in a schoolhouse on Mason Street that opened to the public on March 20, 1854, with about 16,000 volumes.

It quickly outgrew the space and moved the same year to Boylston Street. The present building in Copley Square, designed by Charles Follen McKim, was built in 1895.

In 1870, the library opened the first branch library in the U.S. It now has 26 branch libraries and three million visitors a year.


The Boston Public Library's mission is to preserve and provide access to historical records of our society, and to serve the cultural, educational, and informational needs of the people of the City and the Commonwealth.


In addition to its 8.9 million books, the library boasts a wealth of rare books and manuscripts, maps, musical scores and prints.

Among its large collections, the BPL holds several first edition folios by William Shakespeare, original music scores from Mozart to Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf;" and, in its rare book collection, the personal library of John Adams.

Throughout the year, the Boston Public Library hosts exhibitions that offer the public an opportunity to view books and documents usually available only to research scholars.