The Lincoln Public Library, Lincoln
Sometimes, you might really like something without being able to explain exactly why. That’s how it is with the Lincoln Public Library. For reasons that are hard to explain, it is one of our favorite libraries in Greater Boston. That isn’t to say it isn’t a wonderful library for all kinds of clear reasons, as its score of 4.45 attests.
There are plenty of intangibles that make Lincoln a favorite. First, the original building is magnificent. Built in the late 1880s, it’s a sturdy red-brick building with a squat clock tower. In its front yard is a twisted old tree that is a curious thing to see. In 1989 the library expanded and many of the exterior features of the original library were included - after a fashion - in the addition. The use of brick is an obvious example, but so is the inclusion of details about the library in its brickwork, and the LL motif.
(There was an earlier expansion, sometime in the 1950s. I’ve only seen a sketch of the building, which appeared to be a long, low, single story structure of a thoroughly anonymous sort. No evidence of this building remains.)
One now enters from a modest parking lot near the new section of the library. Walking past the circulation desk and reference area, one goes into a tall, airy hall with stairs leading up and down and a door to a patio that can be used when the weather is good. Passing the stairs, one enters a small gallery. Through an entryway to the left are stacks, which are also to the right. A bit tucked away is one of the nicest spots in any local library, the Lincoln history room.
It’s a small room, perhaps 8 feet wide and 12 feet long. Metal shelves line its walls and are filled with old volumes associated with the town. On one wall is the door to the town archivist’s office (which is wedged below a flight of stairs and is very reminiscent of Harry Potter’s room) and in another is the door to a vault containing even more items from the town’s long history. In the center of the room is a wooden table surrounded by six chairs - five antique ones of oak and one of wood that must be a replacement for a now-missing oak chair.
On our first visit to the Lincoln Library we set up shop in the history room. It’s a peaceful and quiet space. (It’s also chilly so be sure to bring a sweatshirt, even in summer.) We worked there undisturbed for several hours, it was great. Eventually, some of the staff arrived to show the archivist (who had started that very day) her office and the vault. We all chatted for some time and helped create positive associations with the library.
If one returns to that tall hallway and descends the stairs, you will find yourself in the basement. Before you is a coffee machine (fifty cents a cup) and free books (discards). To your left is more of the collection and a few study areas.
Going up two sets of stairs, you will be on a landing that overlooks the hall below and the patio. To the left is the children’s library and to the right is the old library. Lincoln’s old library is three rooms. The largest room was once the “book room” and contained the library’s collection, behind a gate and librarian’s desk. Today it serves as a periodicals and reading room.
To the right is a quiet reading room. It features comfortable furniture and was the librarian’s office and workroom. Straight through is the Tarbell Reading Room. This is a large room with lovely carved wooden details, particularly at the front of the room around an archway into a tall and wide alcove that houses the fireplace.
There is another small door on the wall of the periodicals room. This door leads up a staircase and to the attic and clock tower. We were working at the library one day, having a planning meeting with one of our SharpOrange clients. As is often the case, we got to chatting with the director. She invited us to join her on a visit to the tower and to see the clock, it was an opportunity we couldn’t skip!
Up a flight of stairs we went, along and through the empty attic. Up another steeper set of stairs and into a small wooden room. At the center of the room sat the clock, original to the library, dutifully keeping time. The clock had been in place until 1963, when it was retired and replaced by a “modern” electrical clock. Fifty or so years later, someone recognized the error of their ways and the original clock was restored to its rightful role. As we made our way down, our client asked if this kind of thing happened often. It does in Library Land we told him!
A third visit was likewise memorable. On this occasion we spent some time talking with the town archivist. We talk about the challenges of getting one’s head around a collection that was assembled over many years and different cataloging systems. It’s an interesting topic and it was good to talk with someone so engaged with the issue.
Each visit has had something small but special that has stuck with me. The cool clock tower, the mystery of the vault, the peace and quiet of the history room, the charm and craftsmanship of the old sections of the library. All of it has combined to make this library special and one we enjoy whenever we visit.