‘Boston Public Library’ a Story Worth Telling

Catherine J. Willis first devised the idea for “Boston Public Library” – the most recent addition to Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America book series – as a way to help the library as it struggled with budgetary cutbacks.

“I thought, ‘What can one person do to help the library?’” said Willis, a Charles River Park resident and manager of technical services of the Boston Public Library since 2002. “It was a real labor of love.”

In June of 2010, Willis’ proposal for the book was approved, and she put the project on the fast track for a December deadline. She spent vacation time and lunch hours over poring over the archives in the Rare Books Department of the Copley Square library. Over the course of her research, Willis selected more than 200 images for the book, many of which were rare or never before published.

Willis’ “Boston Public Library” tells the story of the first large municipally funded public library in the United States beginning with opening of the first library in the city in 1871. By 1895, the new central library was open in Copley Square, as well as 29 branches and reading rooms throughout the city. The growth of the library eventually made it necessary to build an addition, and the new building designed by Philip Johnson opened in 1972.

The book also includes a forward by Amy E. Ryan, president of the Boston Public Library.

Meanwhile, Willis admits that the publication of her book is something of a dream come true.

“Every librarian thinks she has a book in her,” Willis said.

“Boston Public Library” is available at area bookstores, independent retailers and online retailers, or through www.arcadiapublishing.com (888-313-2665).

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