Cambridge Public Library

449 Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02138


Mission of the Library
So that enlightenment and literacy may flourish in our community, the Cambridge Public Library dedicates itself to collecting and distributing an array of information and ideas that is diverse in material, varied in formats, and rich in viewpoint, reflecting the multicultural character of the community and world it serves. The Library provides free, equal, and confidential access to its resources and services. Essential to this mission is the active promotion of library services, collections, and programs.

A Brief History of the Library
The Cambridge Public Library had its origins in the Cambridge Athenaeum, incorporated in 1849, for the purpose of establishing a lyceum, public library, and reading room. An early benefactor erected a building on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Pleasant Street, and any person residing in Cambridge and "known to the Librarian" was able to purchase borrowing privileges for one dollar per annum.

The City purchased the Cambridge Athenaeum in 1858 for use as a city hall and a public library. Renamed the Dana Library, it was among the first wave of public libraries established in the nation, the Boston Public Library having been founded just five years earlier. At this point, the library boasted 1400 titles and one clerk; customers were allowed only one book at a time. By the spring of 1866, holdings had expanded to 3000 volumes, prompting the Library to move to larger quarters on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Temple Street. In 1874, the library became free to the public and was renamed the Cambridge Public Library in order to make clear that the Library was open to all and not the personal property of Mr. Edmund Dana!

The Cambridge Public Library continued to grow, and the crowded condition of the rooms had begun to attract general attention when Frederick H. Rindge gave the City a tract of land and offered to erect a library building. This generous offer was accepted and Mr. Rindge commissioned a design by Van Brunt and Howe. Completed in 1889, the resulting Romanesque building still serves as the Main Library.

Over time, additions have been made to the Main Library, most recently in 1967. Cambridge is also fortunate to have six branches: the O'Connell Branch and the Valente Branch in East Cambridge; the O'Neill Branch in North Cambridge; the Central Square Branch; the Collins Branch in the Mount Auburn area; and the Boudreau Branch on Huron Avenue. Cambridge is unique among Massachusetts libraries in that most residents of the City are within walking distance of their public library.

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