Get Out: Cambridge Public Library Main Branch
Monday-Thursday: 9 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
449 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02138
On Broadway street, just a few blocks east of the Science Center, is what the Boston Society of Architects has deemed the “single most beautiful building” in the Boston metropolitan area. You might have even wandered past it before, and wondered what the building—which looks like a glowing glass jewel box—contains.
This lovely structure is the main branch of the Cambridge Public Library. Boasting seating for over 200 people, nearly 100 public computers, seven community meeting spaces, separate children’s and teen rooms, and plenty of WiFi and natural sunlight to go around, the Cambridge Public Library is truly a city jewel. However, chances are you, like many Harvard students, have never ventured beyond the Science Center Plaza to visit. Here is FM’s push for you hike up your backpack and make the short and worthwhile trek.
The Historic Library (Stone)
The old library, built in 1888 and on the National Register for Historic Places, is what you might think of when you hear the word “library.” The exterior is reddish stone and boasts a turret; the interior is furnished with heavy wooden tables, soft lights, and ornate ceilings. You won’t find any cranky pince-nez-wearing librarians here. However, the old library is home to the multimedia lab and the teen room, as well as an excellent collection of graphic novels. Take a volume from the shelves (FM recommends the architecture-themed graphic novel Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli) and settle into one of the warm wooden chairs, or embark on a scavenger hunt for the stone gargoyles perched around the building.
The Main Library (Glass)
An elegant glass corridor takes you seamlessly to the newly built main library, opened in 2009 as part of a $90 million expansion. Three stories plus a basement contains the bulk of the library’s extensive fiction, nonfiction, magazine, and film collections. The walls of the main building are nearly all glass. Even on the coldest and cloudiest of days, light floods in to bathe the many tables and study spaces. Even more exciting: food and drink are allowed in most areas of the main library. Bring your p-set or a book here, grab a coffee and croissant from Broadway Market, and forget all about days spent in the fluorescent-lit carrels of Lamont.
Want to hear authors like Junot Díaz read and have a chat with him afterwards? Here’s the place to do it. Cambridge Public Library holds over 100 programs each month. The main library’s airy lecture hall is the perfect setting for author talks and even orchestral performances. Smaller rooms are perfect for writing workshops and book groups, where you can meet people from outside of the Harvard bubble. A sampling of fall events: Junot Díaz read from The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao on Tuesday, October 14; later this month, the library will host special craft sessions with local authors during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in October and November; and the Boston Symphony Orchestra will perform a Community Concert on Sunday, October 19 at 2:30 p.m.
The Cambridge Public Library has a fully stocked vending machine, but if you’re in the mood for more substantial fare, have a slice of pizza from the excellent Angelo’s Pizza Co. right across the street. Or head back in the direction of the square to get surprisingly tasty ribs from the hot foods bar at Broadway Market. A short jaunt north, through the campus of Cambridge Rindge and Latin school, will take you to Darwin’s Ltd. on Cambridge St., where you can get a sandwich fix.
Joan Lorentz Park
The library overlooks a vast green lawn dotted with tall oak trees and plenty of park benches. After you’ve gotten your food, take a study break to sit outside and enjoy the fall weather. The library is beautiful from the outside—the glass exterior reflects the sky and clouds above. Cantabridgians spread out picnic blankets, children play in the playground, dogs race and roll in the grass. As twilight nears, the library begins to glow from within. Old and new blend harmoniously. Spend a day here, and you just might forget how to get back to Harvard.