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Jacob Passy | A Bit Off

Turning a new page

Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012

Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 01:09

Whenever the work piles up, I head to Tisch Library out of instinct. But sometimes Tisch can be too much. The crowds are a bit too noisy, the lights a bit too bright and the atmosphere a bit too stressful. At times like that, I miss my neighborhood public library.

When I decided to make the trek to the Somerville Public Library’s Central Branch, I had my reservations. But when I walked through the library’s doors, I was immediately at ease in a way that I never can be at Tisch.

Honestly, I question why students don’t make it out there more often. First off, getting to the public library doesn’t have to be a huge trek — there’s the temple−looking West Branch right near Davis Square. But, if you really want to see a nice library, you’ve got to take the walk down Highland Avenue — or catch the 88 bus for those that are lazy.

The walk down Highland Avenue, though, is enough to make me go back. Typically, walks down Highland end at Kickass Cupcakes for a bit of deliciousness. But walking past the bakery proved to be eye opening. The houses on Highland are quintessential New England: stately, painted beautiful colors and complete with a visceral sense of history.

This walk will ultimately take you to a hill, which also features Somerville High School and a small park — a nice alternative to the Tot Lot behind South Hall, eh? If you walk around the building, you even get a nice view of Bunker Hill and the surrounding area that rivals that of the Tisch roof — yet another way in which the Somerville Public Library represents a fine alternative.

Stepping in, I was impressed. The library has many levels, with rooms dedicated to teen and children’s books. I mention these because I know I could sometimes use a break from studying to read something nostalgia−inducing and whimsical, like “The Runaway Bunny” (1942).

What struck me the most was the library’s main level, named Wellington Hall. The room, in many ways, felt like what a library should be. Library guests are surrounded by gilded molding depicting figures that looked as if they were headed to battle. Columns dot the walls on the highest floors. The room just feels important. And isn’t that how all libraries should feel?

With plenty of computers, and tons of books at your disposal the library serves as a more−than−adequate replacement for Tisch. And the lighting is better to boot. Ambiance and children’s books, however, are not all the Somerville Public Library has to offer — though these are clearly of the utmost importance.

There are books for sale at much cheaper prices than our own beloved bookstore. And these are not throwaway volumes either, but great titles like the Booker Prize−winning “The Bone People” (1984). They also offer a variety of book groups — a particularly interesting one focused on book−to−film adaptations — and a weekly chess club.

Walking into the library also gives you a better sense of the community that Tufts is a part of. With notices about local festivals and events, it made Somerville feel far more alive than it ever normally does for me.

At the end of the day, the Somerville Public Library has a ton to offer, and it doesn’t cost a penny to get a library card — all you need is a piece of mail. All I know is that come reading period in December, when Tisch is filled to the brim, I’ll be heading down Highland Avenue for a bit of comfort and Roald Dahl.



Jacob Passy is a senior majoring in international relations. He can be reached at

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