Franklin Public Library

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Franklin was the 100th library we visited in 2018 and what a place! Franklin is the oldest library in Massachusetts. A factual claim but one that needs some clarification.

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Back in 1778, the town was in the process of being incorporated. Originally they planned to call it Essex. At the time, Ben Franklin secured a treaty with France that was critical to the young United States. The town father's scratched the name Essex and went with Franklin. The town was feeling pretty chuffed and thought they'd let ol' Ben know and see if they couldn't hit him up for a gift. They thought a bell for the meeting house would be nice but Franklin thought books more appropriate and in 1786 he gave the town 116 volumes.

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Now for many years, these books had no fixed home. They traveled from site to site in town and were - for a time - even lost. All of that changed in 1900 when a permanent location was selected and a massive (and beautiful) library constructed. Finished in 1904, it was expanded twice - first in 1989 and then again in 2017.

Somewhat imposing on the outside with an older section looking like a Greek Temple (or a bank) and a modern wing that is almost corporate. Walking in the older wing entrance you’ll find a fireplace room with shared table and large round reading light - it looks almost like a ship or part of a submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. You can go up a flight of stairs to find large artwork in a formal entryway.

This leads to a mammoth reading room with gigantic murals of a Grecian Festival and procession to a sacrificial altar. There are detailed wood and window openings at the top. Walking up to the fourth floor quiet area allows a view down into that room but also an opportunity to appreciate the details of the tiled ceiling.

Enter the modern wing and you will find a number of study rooms (ours felt like a small corporate boardroom) and plenty of comfortable seating. There’s also a nice separation of kids areas and more function rooms where - based on the debris in the room - a party had recently taken place. One meeting room would not be out of place on an old episode of “Doctor Who.”

The Franklin library is worth a visit - but if you can’t make it in person, why not check them out online?

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