Boston Public Library branches help you check out more than books. Here's a breakdown of services

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Empty desks line the Boston Public Library's Reading Room in Boston in 2020. (Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Empty desks line the Boston Public Library's Reading Room in Boston in 2020. (Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Public libraries have evolved over the decades to connect people with far more than books on shelves. Many libraries, including those within the Boston Public Library system, often fill gaps in social services.

Boston Public Libraries' Michael Colford, director of library services, joined The Common to discuss how the robust resources of the city's libraries can help you out in unexpected ways.

Tech help

In 2022, the BPL worked with state partners to get about 6,200 laptops and 3,000 routers to residents who lacked technology access. While long-term lending laptops and routers aren’t available at this time, the system lends out short-term connectivity kits that include a Chromebook and Wi-Fi hotspot.

For those not quite sure how to use their device, Colford said the library holds classes in computer navigation and digital literacy courses.

“A lot of these people have never used a computer before or need a lot of help working with a computer,” said Colford. “We have a major digital literacy component where we actually teach them the real basics about using a computer, how to use a mouse, how to search the internet, and what resources are available to them.”

Support for starting a business

The Copley branch of the library has dedicated space for entrepreneur resources called the Kirstein Business Library & Innovation Center.

“We have an innovation lab there where [entrepreneurs] can learn how to do video editing and audio editing and graphic design. They can create their own logo, they can create their own promotional video, they can do podcasts,” said Colford.

People looking to start businesses ranging from daycares to apps have used the innovation lab as a resource.

Along with technological support, the center provides programs like tax preparation aid and pro bono consultations with lawyers specializing in patent applications.

GED certification

Library card holders ages 19 and up can get their GED for free online via Excel Adult High School. The BPL also has online resources for free GED sample tests.

Job search assistance

The library system offers one-on-one career meetings for resume review, interview aid and cover letter support. Library card holders on the job hunt can search through postings via AtoZdatabases.

For those looking for career development, there are free online job certifications courses through LinkedIn Learning and Google Career Certificates.

Help getting citizenship

The BPL holds citizenship classes at branches across the city. The 12-week course aims to help improve English skills and prepare for the U.S. citizenship test.

For those who can’t take class in person, the library offers an online service for citizenship exam preparation in English and Spanish.

Homework help and test prep

The BPL has free homework help programs at multiple branches, where teen mentors trained through Harvard University support students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Colford said the library is looking to expand scholastic resources, including with SAT prep courses. For those who need SAT prep help right now, the library provides free online SAT and ACT support through LearningExpress Library.

This article was originally published on January 13, 2023.

Headshot of Darryl C. Murphy

Darryl C. Murphy Host
Darryl C. Murphy is the host of WBUR's daily news and culture podcast, "The Common."


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Katelyn Harrop Podcast Producer
Katelyn Harrop is a podcast producer for WBUR's daily news and culture podcast, "The Common."


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Katie Cole Associate Producer, Digital
Katie Cole is an associate producer for digital.



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