Last year, I spent a good majority of my days living in two libraries:
Widener Library (Harvard Yard)
Boston Public Library
This past Sunday I was reminded of my days spent toiling in those reading rooms as I checked out a Book Sale at the Oakville Public Library (books were going for a DOLLAR a POUND, it was outrageous).
There is something indescribably inspiring about sitting under those sky-high ceilings, perched at a big oak desk, with the sunlight streaming through the stain-glass. Books are comforting companions; chalk full of wisdom and well-crafted sentences.
Widener turned 100 years old this year and the University released this virtual love letter to the library. I thought it was a lovely little tribute to one of my favourite book kingdoms:
Security is pretty tight at Widener (lots of tourists try to sneak in, so in addition to flashing your Student ID, you have to walk through a metal detector and have your bag checked by a security guard). When my Mom and Nan visited last year the security guard was kind enough to give them a sneak peek. You're also not allowed to take pictures but I snapped the photo below real quick...
The library was built as a memorial to Harry Elkins Widener by his mother, Eleanor Elkins Widener. Harry had graduated from Harvard in 1907 but died in the Titanic. Legend has it that the Widener family was secured in a lifeboat (given they had first-class tickets) when Harry, a passionate bibliophile, ran back to get a rare book he had left on his bedside table. His father followed after him and the two perished with the ship.
Eleanor survived and donated Harry's trust fund (estimated $3.5 million) to the construction of the library in his name. She had very strict instructions that the exterior of the building could never be changed. Harvard has held up their end of the bargain; to expand they dug down into the ground and built the rest of the intricate library system subterraneously. I like to think of it as though you're "walking on books" through Harvard Yard.
Rumour has it that Eleanor also stipulated that all Harvard students must pass a swim test in order to graduate. That rule is no longer in effect (as far as I know!)
The library holds the world's largest comprehensive research collection. It is 57 miles (92 km) of shelves, along 5 miles (8 km) of aisles, on 10 floors (four of which are underground)! It's wild.
The Boston Public Library
With its twin lion statues, outdoor courtyard, floor-to-ceiling marble and painted masterpieces, the Boston Public Library is equally as enchanting. It reminds me of an art museum or a European palace. I loved sitting in the courtyard with a coffee and getting readings done or catching up on some writing. Definitely worth seeing if you're visiting Boston!