The Week in Library Land - March 29
So begins a new feature, a simple one that recounts some of the things we’ve seen and done in our travels around LibraryLand.
It’s been a well-traveled week, with visits to six libraries across a broad swath of the state.
On Tuesday, we went up to the Merrimack Valley and visited libraries in Lawrence, Methuen and North Andover and the three couldn’t have been more different.
The Lawrence Public Library is a big hulking brutalist building - lots and lots of concrete and glass. It was opened back in 1973 and definitely shows its age in places. That doesn’t stop it from being an important - and heavily used - part of its community. Lawrence doesn’t have study rooms but one of the reference librarians said that Methuen did - so that was the next stop.
Having grown up in southern New Hampshire, I was familiar with Methuen only as the home to an eponymous mall. I’m not sure what I expected, but the Nevins Library is pretty amazing. The original building was opened in the 1880s. It includes an amazing hall - complete with a stage and balcony - and a fantastic old reading room with a mezzanine level that’s open! The new section was designed to blend into the original section and is quite nice.
The director, Krista McLeod, was kind enough to spend some time with us discussing the library, its history, relationship to the town and plans for the future. All-in-all, a wonderful visit.
As a kid, my dad had an office on the JP Stevens Estate in North Andover and so I had a passing familiarity with both the town and the family behind the Stevens Memorial Library. Not that I’d visited in the past or anything. It’s an interesting place - its coolest feature being a round central room that was the original library. Additions were added in two different periods and the result is somewhat confusing. While we worked there we could see how well-used it is. It seems like a larger space could be a good thing for North Andover.
On Wednesday afternoon we were in the Brighton branch of the Boston Public Library. It’s one we visited really early on but never really reviewed or rated. Like Lawrence, it’s in the popular concrete style of the early 1970s. While Lawrence is a block, Brighton is low and long and once you’re inside a series of angular walkways brings you down two stories beneath the ground. There are no meeting rooms at this branch and much of the common space was in use. We were able to find a quiet spot and got work done.
On Thursday we worked in the Waltham Public Library. As with Brighton, this is one we’ve been to in the past - more than once, even - and it has really grown on us. The reading rooms in the front of the old building are nice - especially the quiet Waltham Room. There are study rooms in the new section and we were able to snag one for a meeting with a prospect.
In past visits we’d never been struck by the natural light in the library but we were yesterday. There are two huge skylights - one of frosted glass and one of stained. The flood the large entry area and circulation desk with so much light - this place scores way high on the Snyder Sunshine Index! There were also some interesting dicussions about clocks.
Finally, today I am at the Hudson Public Library, in their quiet reading room. As is the case with so many libraries, this is one that I’ve really come to enjoy. On our first visit, we had no end of trouble with the WiFi but whatever issue there was no longer seems to be a problem. That makes this a go-to when in this part of the state.