Boston Athenaeum Membership
Clearly, anyone who writes and reads blogs is likely to be spending far too much time glued to the screen, looking at the internet and ruining his eye sight. I'm no exception. I do, however, love reading books, the printed kind, and amazingly I find time to do it. Aside from amassing an indecently large wardrobe, an ever expanding library of both books and music is my other crutch. I can't get enough. That's why I proudly hold membership at the Boston Atenaeum.
The Athenaeum is a membership library, one of the oldest in the country, founded in 1807. That may seem a bit snooty, but it isn't. True, you have to pay a fee each year to gain access, but it's actually pretty cheap and anyone can join. For as much as you might think this place reeks of old Boston Brahmin exclusivity (note:the video in the link was filmed at the Athenaeum), it actually welcomes all comers with open arms on a truly equal basis. The only attitude you'll encounter here is a love of books and a reverence of knowledge.
The architecture of the building is stunning. The staff couldn't be friendlier or more helpful, and the collection is beyond description. Every time I set foot in the place, I immediately wish I didn't have to be somewhere else later. I could get lost in there. Besides all that, they not only have a wonderful childrens room, but they actually welcome the little ones. Most places I can think of that look like that room up there in the photo can get pretty prickly when it comes to kids. Hell, I get attitude at a certain Salvation Army over my children.
I frequently will browse the catalog online, pick out a few things, and call the cirulation desk to request they send them down for me to pick up. This way,I can just pop in with the kids, get my books and go. They are always very accomodating. A while back, I requested the memoirs of Giuseppe Garibaldi, published in 1863. The copy they lent me was an original, from 1863. They didn't bat an eye at letting it into my hand for 60 days. They're good like that.
Today, I had the rare chance to get in there alone. When this happens, I like to pick a topic or two to think about, then find that corner of the library and just wander. I spent an hour in the art and architecture room down in the basement, just browsing books on averything from Gothic churchbuilding techniques to Pier Luigi Nervi.
Sartorially speaking, I can think of few places better to wear a J.Press blazer with khakis and a repp tie. In the members only reading room on the top floor, there's always a few Ivy League octagenarians reading the newspaper in tattered old sack suits and club striped ties, frayed at the point of course. Fantastic.
I must be honest an tell you that my own membership came free, a stroke of good fortune for which I will be forever thankful. That story deserves it's own post someday. But if my membership ever ran out, I'd pay to renew it without a second thought. A love and respect of this venerable temple of knowledge is a gift, one I plan to pass on to my children.
Associate membership is $115 for individuals, $175 for the whole family. I'll bet many of you pay at least that much per month for internet and cable. It is said that we live in the information age. For the cost of a months internet, you can have a years access to a wealth of information the likes of which your computer will never be able to provide.
It's worth every penny.