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Cambridge Public Library

449 Broadway
617-349-4032

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.


Recent News

Main Library Reopens with Library Express Services on June 2, 2021

Cambridge, MA, May 26 -- The Cambridge Public Library will reopen the Main Library for Library Express services, including limited browsing, on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. During this next phase…

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Collins Branch to Offer Contactless Holds Pickup Service

Cambridge, MA -- The Cambridge Public Library is pleased to announce the introduction of contactless holds pickup service at the Collins Branch beginning on Monday, June 7. When the service begins, patrons will be able to pick up requested materials…

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Maria McCauley Elected President of the Public Library Association

Cambridge, MA - Dr. Maria McCauley, Director of Libraries for the City of Cambridge, has been elected President of the Public Library Association (2022-2023). Dr. McCauley will serve a three-year term beginning this June, covering one-year terms as…

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Boudreau Branch to Offer Contactless Holds Pickup Service

Cambridge, MA -- Cambridge Public Library is pleased to announce the introduction of Contactless Holds Pickup Service at the Boudreau Branch beginning on Monday, April 26. When the service begins, patrons will be able to pick up requested materials…

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Submissions Requested for 22nd Annual Poetry Contest

Cambridge, MA -- Cambridge Public Library is calling for submissions for the Cambridge Public Library Poetry Contest. This program celebrates poetry and fosters a love of poetry and community in Cambridge students enrolled in grades K-8. Submitted…

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Cambridge Public Library Offers Remote Printing Service

Cambridge, MA, -Cambridge Public Library is now offering an important new service: remote printing. This service is in keeping with the Library’s efforts to bridge the gap in access to technology during the Covid-19 public health…

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City’s Black History Month Event to Feature Acclaimed Authors Danielle Evans and Kim McLarin

Cambridge, MA,- The City of Cambridge Employees’ Committee on Diversity will host Danielle Evans, author of The Office of Historical Corrections: a Novella and Stories in celebration of Black History Month, 2021. A celebrated work that voices…

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Ambassador Nicholas Burns To Speak About US Foreign Policy

Cambridge, MA - Ambassador Nicholas Burns, the Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at Harvard University and distinguished US diplomat, will speak at a Cambridge Public Library virtual…

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Kiese Laymon to Speak at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Event on January 14

Cambridge, MA - Kiese Laymon, author of the award-winning memoir Heavy: An American Memoir, will be in conversation with Jesse McCarthy, an Assistant Professor at Harvard University, at the Cambridge Public Library’s 46th Annual Dr. Martin…

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Takeout Technology Service Expanded to Branch Locations

Cambridge, MA -- On Monday, December 14, the Cambridge Public Library will begin the next phase of its free Takeout Technology program, allowing patrons to check out joint Chromebook/mobile WIFI hotspot bundles for home use.  The new bundles…

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Central Square Branch to Close for Improvements, November 26 - December 20

Cambridge, MA - The Central Square Branch Library will close for improvements from Thursday, November 26 through Sunday, December 20. New furniture will be installed in the Ground Floor, Children’s Room, Literacy Center and Lewis Room. The…

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Groundbreaking Augmented Reality Exhibit to Open in Joan Lorentz Park

Cambridge, MA - The Cambridge Public Library STEAM Academy will launch a groundbreaking augmented reality (AR) exhibit examining systemic racism on Thursday, November 5, at Joan Lorentz Park in front of the Main Library. Titled This Should Not Be,…

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Cambridge Public Library to offer Augmented Reality Storytelling Workshops Beginning October 21

Cambridge, MA - The Cambridge Public Library announced a new program offering introductory level workshops on augmented reality, Augmented Stories. The workshop series will offer participants the opportunity to learn about augmented reality (AR) by…

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Contactless Holds Pickup Service Hours Extended at O'Neill Branch

Cambridge, MA – Contactless Holds Pickup Service hours at the O'Neill Branch, 70 Rindge Ave., Cambridge have been extended. The new schedule, which will go into effect on Wednesday, October 7, is as follows: - Wednesdays, 1:00 p.m. -7:30…

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Fall Schedule for Contactless Holds Pickup Service

Cambridge, MA - Cambridge Public Library has released a fall schedule for Contactless Holds Pickup Service and Material Returns Service that will begin after Labor Day. The schedule includes two new locations for contactless pickup, the…

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Mobile Hotspots now Available for Checkout

Cambridge, MA -- Cambridge Public Library will begin providing mobile hotspots for checkout through contactless holds pickup services on Monday August 31st. The deployment of mobile hotspots for checkout is the second phase of our Takeout Technology…

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Holds Pickup Service to Begin at the Central Square Branch Returns Service to Begin at All Branches

Cambridge, MA -- Contactless holds pickup service at the Central Square Branch will begin the week of August 17: - Central Square Branch: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Thursdays from 1:30 to 7 p.m.…

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Fine Free Pilot Program

Cambridge, MA - The City of Cambridge is pleased to announce a pilot program at the Cambridge Public Library to eliminate overdue fines for the late return/renewal of materials and the elimination of loss/damaged item fees for children's and young…

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Checkout Library Technology Beginning August 10, 2020

Cambridge, MA - Cambridge Public Library will begin providing Chromebook Laptops for checkout through contactless holds pickup service on August 10, 2020. This service is in keeping with CPL’s commitment to expand access to technology and…

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Kids Books to Go Event August 8 at Valente Branch Library, Additional August Dates also Planned

Cambridge, MA – The next event of Kids Books to Go, a new initiative launched by the Cambridge Public Library to help young people in Cambridge access physical library books this summer, will take place on Saturday, August 8, from 11 a.m.-2…

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CPL Book Giveaways: Keep Reading and Keep Learning!

Cambridge, MA - Cambridge Public Library invites children and families who are picking up lunch at Cambridge Summer Food Program sites near our branch libraries to stop at the branch and take home a new book to keep during the week of August 10. The…

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Kids Books To Go Programs Scheduled for July 27 at Collins Branch Library and July 31 at O’Connell Branch Library

Cambridge, MA – The third event of Kids Books to Go, a new initiative launched by the Cambridge Public Library to help young people in Cambridge access physical library books this summer, will take place on Monday, July 27, from 11a.m. to…

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Cambridge Public Library To Launch New Service To Help Youth Access Library Books This Summer

Cambridge, MA – The Cambridge Public Library is launching a new service to help young people in Cambridge access physical library books this summer. At Kids Books to Go pop-up events, youth and families may borrow bags of library books…

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Communal Reading of Frederick Douglass’s Speech and the U.S. Declaration of Independence on July 2, 2020

Cambridge, MA -- The Cambridge Public Library will host a virtual communal reading of Frederick Douglass’s speech, What to the Slave is the Fourth of July, and the U.S. Declaration of Independence, on Thursday, July 2, at 5:30 p.m. The virtual…

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Cambridge Public Library to Kick Off Summer Reading Program

Cambridge, MA - The Cambridge Public Library’s popular annual Summer Reading Program will run from June 22– August 28, 2020. All ages and abilities are welcome. Registration begins on Monday, June 22 on the library's website:…

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Cambridge Public Libraries and All Branch Locations Closed through March 29, 2020

Effective at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 13, the City of Cambridge will close all Cambridge Public Library locations through at least March 29, 2020. During this time, please hold onto any library materials that you have currently borrowed. Loan…

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Tech Bar and The Hive to Open in March 2020

Cambridge, MA - The Cambridge STEAM Initiative, a joint venture between the City of Cambridge’s Department of Human Service Programs, Cambridge Public School Department and the Cambridge Public Library (CPL), will reach a new milestone with…

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Live Mural Painting at the Cambridge Public Library

What: Cambridge Public Library invites you to watch a mural come to life! During the week of January 13, a mural is being created for installation in The Hive, the new STEAM Initiative makerspace and creativity zone opening in March at the Main…

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STEAM Academy Launches at the Cambridge Public Library

Cambridge, MA – The Cambridge Public Library (CPL) is proud to announce the January 2020 launch of the Cambridge Public Library STEAM Academy, in partnership with local non-profit organization Innovators for Purpose (iFp). Educators,…

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Cambridge Public Library to Hold Community Conversation About Extended Library Hours

What: Cambridge Public Library invites you to a community conversation about the City’s plan to extend hours at all branch locations in FY 21. During the community conversation, a brief survey about library hours will be distributed. Surveys…

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Extended Branch Hours Maintained at O'Connell Branch Library

Cambridge, MA, Dec., 2019 – The City of Cambridge and the Cambridge Public Library are pleased to announce that O’Connell Branch Library at 48 Sixth St. will continue to offer five days of library service to the East Cambridge community…

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New Valente Branch Library Opens November 4, 2019

Cambridge, MA, – Cambridge Public Library is pleased to announce that the Valente Branch Library will officially open on Monday, November 4, 2019 in its new location at 826 Cambridge Street, with expanded hours and services. Valente…

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Sculpture Symbolizing Opioid Crisis to be Displayed at the Main Library

Cambridge, MA -- The Cambridge Public Library is pleased to announce that the Opioid Spoon sculpture, created by artist and activist Domenic Esposito to raise awareness about the opioid crisis, will be on display at the Main Library from September…

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Cambridge Public Library Seek Community Input on Strategic Plan

Cambridge, MA --The Cambridge Public Library (CPL) has begun a strategic planning process to determine how we can best serve the community. The new plan will identify priorities that will guide our service to the community over the next 3-5 years.…

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Cambridge Public Library Foundation Names its First Appointment with Susan Hartnett as Special Advisor

Working closely with the Cambridge Public Library, the Foundation will expand private support for the Library with Susan Hartnett, formerly of the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, at the helm. Cambridge, MA -- The Cambridge Public Library…

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Cambridge Public Library Selects National Book Award Winner

CAMBRIDGE, MA — The Cambridge Public Library has chosen the award-winning Brown Girl Dreaming as its 2015 Cambridge READS selection and will host its author Jacqueline Woodson in the Main Library’s Lecture Hall. Director of Libraries Susan…

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Cambridge Celebrates Black History Month with Panel Discussion on Black College Athletes: Education, Myths, and Reality

Cambridge, MA - The City of Cambridge Employees' Committee on Diversity, City Manager’s Office and Mayor David P. Maher invite you to an evening of conversation in honor of Black History Month at Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway. The evening…

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Cambridge Public Library News - September 9, 2014

The Friends of the Cambridge Public Library and Cambridge READS are proud to announce The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz as the 2014 selection.   Meet Junot Díaz at the Author Event on Tuesday, October 14 at 7:00PM, Main Library…

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Make Way for Ducklings: Robert McCloskey and the Art of the Picture Book

On the evening of Robert McCloskey's 100th birthday, join the Cambridge Public Library and leading children's literature historian and critic, Leonard Marcus, to explore and honor the fascinating legacy of this beloved children's author and…

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Digital Photography Exhibition from English Language Learners

Cambridge, MA---Cambridge-based teacher and artist Emily Belz and the Cambridge Community Learning Center (CLC) are pleased to announce an exhibit of photographs at the Cambridge Public Library (CPL) made by students in Ms. Belz’s Digital…

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Cambridge Public Library Honored to Host a Special Film Screening of Disobedience: The Sousa Mendes Story

The Cambridge Public Library, in commemoration of the Holocaust, is honored to host a special film screening of Disobedience: The Sousa Mendes Story in the Main Library’s Lecture Hall.  A montage of Aristides de Sousa Mendes life and work will be…

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Cambridge Public Library Holiday Book Drive

The Cambridge Public Library (CPL) is collecting donations of new books to give to children who are living in Cambridge shelters and transitional housing during the holidays.   The Cambridge Public Library and Porter Square Books partner annually…

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Cambridge Public Library Launches New Poetry Series

The Cambridge Public Library is pleased to announce a new poetry series this fall, in honor of Louisa Solano, owner of the Grolier Book Shop from 1974 to 2006 and patron of the poetry community. Poets will read from their selected works at the Main…

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New Braille Embosser Now Available At Cambridge Public Library

Cambridge Public Library is excited to announce the arrival of a Braille embosser, the Braille Blazer, for our vision impaired patrons. The Braille Blazer and accompanying computer software allows you to print quality Braille documents. This machine…

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