I was in Boston recently and took the opportunity to visit the Public Library. The library is actually in two buildings which are joined together back-to-back, the older McKim building and the modern Johnson building. As a tourist the main face of the library was the McKim building which faces Copley Square. Free architecture tours are available daily starting in the lobby.
The library also has an unusual open courtyard in the middle where a couple were having wedding photographs!
In the modern half of the library was the biggest flag I have ever seen.
What I really loved was the inscriptions around the outside of the McKim building, which were too big to fit in a photo so I am relying on wikipedia here:
- South: “Founded through the munificence and public spirit of citizens”
- East: “The public library of the city of Boston • Built by the people and dedicated to the advancement of learning,”
- North: “The commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty” (The ‘commonwealth’ refers to ‘The Commonwealth of Massacheusetts’, nothing to do with the Commonwealth of Nations).
- Also above the main : “FREE TO ALL”
I would love to see more of this in the UK. When the inevitable question “why should my taxes be spent on this?” is asked, the answer is right there. Boom! In fact, I don’t know why we don’t do this already. What would you write over your public library? Something lofty and poetic or some statistics about the relationship between illiteracy and poverty? Or both? Or neither?