My grateful thanks to Barbara Kerr at the Medford Public Library for her invaluable assistance and for validating much of my raw information.


            It was Kathleen who was seated at the front entrance desk.  The question was:  Does the library own “The Diaries of Richard Burton?”  Kathleen’s immediate – and obviously informed – question was, “The actor or the explorer?”  The cardholder was impressed! (it was the actor).


            Another time, it was Vicki in Reference.  This time, the cardholder asked for the correct spelling of the French phrase, c’est magnifique.  No problem.  And, oh, yes, c’est magnifique was the name of one of the songs Cole Porter wrote for his Broadway musical, “Can Can” in 1953.


            Asked about the word formidable, Vicki noted the difference in pronunciation in English and in French, adding that the word in French means terrific whereas, in English, “You don’t want to be caught in a dark alley with formidable.” (point taken).  All of this off the top of her head.


            In a phone call, on another occasion, the librarian was asked about an obscure foreign language DVD.  She instantly recognized the movie and, yes, the library owns it.  Asked about an author whose name is hardly mainstream – yes, she knew of the author and was familiar with his work.


            These literate, crackerjack ladies are typical of the accomplished minds you’ll encounter on a visit or in a phone call to director Brian Boutilier’s Medford Public Library.


            These librarians and their colleagues are some of the most knowledgeable people in town.  If they don’t have the information that a visitor seeks, they will know where to find that information, might assist in the search, and will probably suggest related items that might be of interest.


* * * * * * * * *

            If the library has not been a recent destination, consider the diverse resources that await you:


  • An inventory of 140,000 books; adult, young adult, children inclusive.
  • Over 460 print periodicals, newspapers, and other print serials, ranging from The New Yorker to Family Handyman.


Bear in mind that, today, the library’s offerings span a far wider landscape than books and periodicals.


Computers are available for public use.  There are movies (almost 10,000), music discs (11,000+), 26,000+ adult e-books, materials in microfilm, as well as downloadable audio and video (and if the library doesn’t own whatever the cardholder is seeking, it can, in all likelihood, be obtained within the Minuteman Library Network).


A look at any month’s calendar might reveal meetings for young writers, an author reading his or her own work, craft projects, board games, special presentations, or a workshop on safeguarding online privacy.


Want more?


Every day, visitors can tap the library’s vast data resources to conduct research, search for ancestors, or access city records.  Available, as well, is a multitude of educational and recreational programming for all ages.


And we haven’t even mentioned – but let’s – the library’s trove of photographs, original papers, and printed material that hasn’t been digitized.


You’ll find services for seniors and for the disadvantaged and, oh, yes, you can learn a foreign language here at 111 High Street!     


Hard as it might be to believe, libraries have access to more information than most search engines.


The array of all that’s available at the Medford Public Library is breathtaking in its scope, so forgive me if I’ve left anything out.


Have a question about something not included above?  I’ll wager that the answer to your question is only a visit or a phone call away.



* * * * * * * * *


            Mightier minds than mine have written at length on the history of the library.  I will attempt only a brief overview.


            It was on a day in 1875 that Thatcher Magoun, Jr. – heir to the successful Medford Shipyard founded by his father – conveyed the family’s handsome, colonnaded mansion on High Street to the Town of Medford to house its public library.


            The Magoun Mansion would replace the modestly functioning public library on Main Street in Medford Square, itself in operation since 1855.  (Medford’s very first library was founded 30 years earlier, in 1825.  Known as the Medford Social Library, it was not, however, a public library).


            Over the years, the library flourished and enriched the lives of generations as Medford grew from a town to a vital suburb of the City of Boston.  The children’s section of the library grew from an alcove to a room and eventually outgrew the parent structure entirely, moving to a Queen Anne home nearby.


            Circa 1895-1900, an annex was added to the main house where those of a certain age will recall the glass floors.


            Branches were opened across town to serve a growing population:  Fellsway West, Salem Street, West Medford, Harvard Street (South Branch), North Medford, Wellington, and the hospital.  (All are no longer in operation).


            Alas, given the Magoun mansion’s physical constraints and the fact that structural issues could no longer be ignored, it became clear that the building was incapable of meeting the demands of a growing, modern library.


            Along with the adjacent children’s library, it yielded to the wrecking ball in 1958 making room for the present building. Constructed on the same site, it was dedicated in 1960.  The Children’s Library rejoined the new library as a wing.  (Given the architectural horrors of the 1950’s, the library was fortunate indeed in its new building, considered, at the time, as state-of-the-art).

* * * * * * * * *


            Over the years, the library has served us well.  But we just may have arrived at the 21st Century equivalent of that time – some 50-plus  years ago – when it became apparent that the Magoun mansion was no longer a viable repository for Medford Public Library.


            Director Boutilier and his staff have done a first-rate job in providing exemplary services with limited resources. 


But the plain, awful truth is that the library will soon require more space to provide, minimally, basic housing for the ever-increasing multitude of material acquired by a modern library.


            Some of the space already exists on the second floor.  But implementing that space will require a meaningful conversation with, and an earnest commitment by, a new city administration.  (Is our new mayor reading these words?)


            Perhaps the director and the friends of the library have a vision for where they would like to take the library and how the space on the second level fits into that vision.  (Dare we dream about projecting the existing space at the second level beyond its present dimensions?) 


            With a green light from City Hall, the possibilities are boundless!