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The Membership Libraries


The Athenaeum of Philadelphia is one of 16 surviving membership libraries. Some, like the Charleston (est. 1748), New York Society (est. 1754), and Newport (est. 1741) libraries date from the 18th century.  The Athenaeum of Philadelphia was established in 1814 as a subscription library, at a time when the free public library system did not exist and collections of books, available for reading or research, were still mostly limited to institutions and schools or colleges.  Only a small number of individuals could afford to amass a collection of books.  From its beginnings the Athenaeum of Philadelphia emphasized not only its lending collections, but also programs where the members could meet and discuss historical, literary, and cultural topics.  In 1847 the Athenaeum moved into its current building, a Renaissance Revival brownstone designed by John Notman.

Athenaeum of Philadelphia Members have the use of both the historical and contemporary collections maintained by the Athenaeum, and are invited to the full range of our programs and events, most of which are free or offered at a nominal fee. 

Reciprocal Privileges

Active Shareholders of The Athenaeum of Philadelphia have reciprocal privileges at the membership libraries listed below (exceptions are marked with an asterisk.) Shareholders may make a maximum of five visits to each library per year. Specific privileges at each library vary, so Shareholders should check the institution’s website for details. Shareholders should present their Athenaeum of Philadelphia library card or a note from The Athenaeum of Philadelphia Executive Director when visiting, but note that the libraries will call us to verify the membership is active.

Eligible members of the institutions listed below are welcome to visit The Athenaeum of Philadelphia. Privileges at The Athenaeum of Philadelphia include use of our members only reading room and lounge, access to the open stacks, and attendance at Athenaeum public programming.


1731The Library Company of Philadelphia*
1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
1820 – Mechanics' Hall Library
(Founded by the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association)
519 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101
1747 – Redwood Library and Athenaeum
50 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI 02840
1820 – The Center for Fiction
(Founded as the Mercantile Library)
15 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217
1748 – The Charleston Library Society
164 King Street, Charleston, SC 29401
1826 – The Institute Library of New Haven
847 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06510
1753 – The Providence Athenaeum
251 Benefit Street, Providence, RI 02903
1835 – The Mercantile Library of Cincinnati
414 Walnut Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
1754 –  The New York Society Library
53 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10075
1846 – The St. Louis Mercantile Library Association*
8001 Natural Bridge Road, St. Louis, Missouri 63121
1807 – The Boston Athenaeum
10½ Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108
1855 – The Mechanics' Institute Library of San Francisco
57 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94104
1810 – The Salem Athenaeum
337 Essex Street, Salem, MA 01970
1890 – Lanier Library Association
72 Chestnut Street, Tryon, NC 28782
1817 – The Portsmouth Athenaeum
9 Market Square, Portsmouth, NH 03801
1899 – The Athenaeum Music and Arts Library in La Jolla
1008 Wall Street, La Jolla, CA 92037
1820 – The General Society Library of New York City
20 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036
2014 – Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum
1531 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98101