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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Find your ancestry and more at the Boston Public Library

Dong Woo Im
Joshua uses a public computer at the Healey Library. Photo by Dong Woo Im / Mass Media Contributor.

In the heart of Boston lives the hub for knowledge that is the first large free municipal library in the United States. The Boston Library predates the American Library Association and 20 of the current 50 states. Of its 26 locations, the core lies in the Central Library in Copley Square.

The library follows a mission consisting of four pillars, “reading and literacy, spaces and programs, reference and instruction, and special collections and cultural heritage,” according to the BPL website. In addition to over 23 million items in their collections promoting these values, they also have various online resources, most of which can be accessed remotely from a personal computer.

In light of recent national events, the Boston Public Library, along with the Seattle Public Library, joined Brooklyn Public Library’s Books Unbanned initiative, which provides e-books and audiobooks to young people aged 13 to 26 across the country. This is an effort to combat the growing number of book bans at school and public libraries in the United States. Young people can sign up for an eCard online to access not only the e-books and audiobooks, but the library’s other resources as well. Those interested in helping the cause can visit bplfund.org/booksunbanned to donate or get involved.

The BPL also offers a number of resources under the “Learning and Research” tab on their website. There are many so it can be hard to navigate. For those who want to stay up-to-date on current events, the BPL offers free temporary accounts with The Boston Globe, The New York Times, Boston Herald and Lowell Sun. The temporary account lasts three days, and a limited number of passes are available each day. However, those interested can return to their website for a new account as often as they wish. 

There are catalogs of many different publications, including art magazines like Artforum, Architectural Digest and Smithsonian Magazine; business publications like Barron’s, Forbes, Fortune and The Wall Street Journal; pop culture magazines like Time, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone and many others.

For the theater nerds out there, BPL has a section dedicated to exactly that. There are archives of Black drama, Asian American drama, British drama and Native American drama, as well as a collection of significant performances, interviews and documentaries, and a Royal Shakespeare Company collection. 

Looking to start a business? There is a whole section for you on their website under “Workforce Development,” with business research guides dedicated exclusively to start-ups and any questions entrepreneurs may have. The BPL librarians have created similar guides for anyone looking to break into a specific industry, and even just basic information on work-development topics, under “Career Research Guides.”

Some resources are specific to the Central Library, including access to grantstoindividuals.org, which helps students, artists and researchers earn grants, scholarships and fundraising for their work. There is a similar resource for non-profits searching for funding under “Foundation Directory Online Professional.” Both of these can be accessed at the Central Library location in Copley Square.

Boston Public Library cardholders also have access to O’Reilly, a digital learning hub for all things computer science, including data engineering, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, programming languages and software security. There are thousands of titles along with tens of thousands of hours of “video, case studies, certification prep materials, interactive tutorials, expert playlists, audiobooks, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 other publishers including McGraw Hill, Taylor & Francis, HarperCollins, and Wiley,” according to the BPL website.

Headspace, the award-winning meditation app, offers free accounts through BPL that last through the first of each calendar month. Streaming service biblio+ offers free accounts through BPL as well, which grant access to many free movies, TV shows and documentaries. 

For those looking to immerse themselves in other cultures, BPL has the perfect resource for you: AtoZ World Food. Featuring recipes from 174 countries, as well as information on each country’s dining culture, traditional ingredients, food rituals and more, it’s the perfect place to experience the world right from your own home. Creativebug is yet another free online tool, providing hundreds of arts and crafts tutorials for anyone looking to explore their creative side.

Ancestry.com is famous for its DNA analysis, which locates where exactly its users are from. This company also has a massive library of historical documents, available for free through BPL, that can help anyone trace their family lineage. Users also have access to American Ancestors, which provides a similar service for those of American descent, and to MyHeritage Library Online, a geographical diverse historical database.

Whatever cardholders are seeking, the Boston Public Library is sure to have a resource for them.

About the Contributors
Rena Weafer, Arts Editor
Dong Woo Im, Photographer