The joy of public browsing

Excerpted from the Sept. 1 "Digital Diary'' column in GoLocalProv.

The City of Cambridge, Mass.,  may force the famous Out of Town News business from its eccentric little building in the middle of Harvard Square in order to “repurpose’’ the building as a public space. (Waiting room with news-crawl screens, public bathrooms?) This may force the business, beloved by browsers looking for publications from around the world for so many years, to close.

The structure, actually a kiosk built in 1928, was built at Zero (!) Harvard Square, as an entrance building for the Harvard Square subway station. In 1981, it was moved slightly and renovated. Out of Town News, which opened at Harvard Square in 1955, has been in the kiosk since 1984.

The business is one of the centers of New England, a lively urban space where all sorts of people congregate – not just local academics. I hope that the business stays where it is, letting many thousands of  patrons and visitors  a year continueto get a sense of what’s going on around the world by reading on paper,  still more congenial for many  people than reading on a screen. And, unlike in your home or office staring at a screen, while browsing at an old-fashioned newsstand you might actually meet someone interesting.

Robert Whitcomb is New England Diary's overseer.