In-Person Reference & Research Help

All Locations

At the Branch Libraries

At every branch of the Boston Public Library, there is a children's librarian and one librarian for adults and teens. Some branches also have a special teen librarian or a second librarian for adults. Any librarian can help you with a question, but you may find it helpful to work with a more specialized staff person for your needs.

Whenever you have a reference or research question, ask the librarians at your local branch. If the librarians at that location feel you need more specialized assistance, they may suggest you visit the Central Library at Copley Square.

At the Central Library at Copley Square

For most questions, the best place to start is the Reference and Reader's Advisory Desk on the 2nd floor of the Johnson Building. Enter from the Boylston Street side and take the stairs or elevator to the 2nd floor. The Reference and Reader's Advisory Desk is next to the elevators at the rear of the building. (Map)

For business-related questions, visit the Kirstein Business Library on the lower level of the Johnson Building. Enter on the Boylston Street side and take the stairs or elevator down to the Lower Level. (Map)

If you have an in-depth or scholarly research question that might require use of the library's research collections, visit the McKim Building through the Dartmouth Street entrance. (Map) There are several specialized research departments available to help you:

  • Delivery Desk (2nd Floor) – Acquiring newspapers, magazines & books for In-Library Use.
  • Fine Arts (3rd Floor) – Art history, architecture, painting sculpture, drawing, design, illustration, decorative arts, and antiques.
  • Music (3rd Floor) – Musical study including biography, ethnomusicology, history and criticism, music education, and theory and composition.
  • Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center (1st Floor, through Courtyard) – Historically significant collection of 350,000 (World, European, and United States) maps. Limited full-service hours for Fall 2011.
  • Prints and Photographs (3rd Floor) – More than 100,000 prints and drawings and 650,000 photographs. Service is by appointment only.
  • Rare Books and Manuscripts (3rd Floor) – More than 600,000 printed items and 1 million manuscripts of historical and research interest.
  • Research Services – Anthroplogy, business and economics, coins, and medals, criminology, education, family studies, history, political science, social history, sociology, transportation, and women's studies; genealogy and local history resources; Funding Information Network resources for those researching foundations, grants, and grant writing.

Map of Johnson and McKim buildings of the Central Library at Copley Square.