- What kind of books are in the Athenæum?
- How many books can I take out at a time? And for how long?
- Is there a Library orientation (how do I use Athena?)
- I'd like to see an item in the special collections. How do I access them?
- May I bring a briefcase in?
- May I use my cell phone in the building?
- May I bring food or drinks (non-alcoholic) to the building?
- May I bring a guest to an event or show them around the building?
- May I hold a meeting at the Athenæum?
- Why do I have two membership cards (temporary, permanent-renewable)?
- I lost my card. How do I get a replacement?
- Will I receive a renewal notice before my membership expires?
- Are membership dues tax-deductible?
- Where is the membership office?
- How do I make reservations for an event?
- Do I have access to the Library if the building is open for an event taking place outside of regular hours?
- What computer access is offered?
- What does the "G" mean in the elevator?
- How do I get to the fifth floor?
- Where can I find a complete listing of the Boston Athenæum's Rules and Regulations?
Bestsellers and contemporary books, children’s books, rare books, prints, maps, reference material, newspapers, periodicals and more! The Athenæum’s collections consist of more than 600,000 volumes, and we are constantly adding to our collections. Search Athena, the online catalog, to view what is available.
Six books may be checked out at any given time. Books may be borrowed for up to 60 days, with the exception of recent acquisitions (located in the bow room on the first floor and in the Art Department) which are 14-day loans. In either case, you may extend the loan if there is no waiting list. Call the circulation desk or log in to Athena to renew or reserve any of the books you have checked-out, or would like to check-out.
Member tours are given on Wednesdays and Saturdays at noon. No reservation is required. Meet in the lobby area in front of the Circulation Desk at the appropriate hour. For additional assistance, you are encouraged to visit the Reference Department on the 2nd floor.
You must make an appointment for access to rare books, manuscripts, prints, and photographs. Additionally, there are special collections orientations given on the first Monday of many months; please see the calendar or events booklet for more information
We check all over-size bags in our secure coat check area. Members and visitors will be given a tag with which to reclaim belongings. Valuable items may be kept with you by requesting a clear Athenæum bag in which to carry them.
As a courtesy to others in the library, talking on your cell phone is not allowed. The ringer must be turned off. You may, however, use your phone to text or search the web. In addition, a phone is located near the first-floor restrooms for local calls only.
Beverages in closed containers are allowed throughout the building, with the exception of the Newspaper Reading Room and the Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery. Food is permitted in the Members' Lounge on the 5th floor and on the second- and fifth-floor terraces. Food is not permitted in other areas of the building at any time, except during special events. Food and drink are never permitted in the art galleries, even during special events.
Members may bring visitors to the Athenæum; however, members must remain with their guests at all times and are responsible for their conduct while they are in the building. Members are also allowed to bring up to 3 non-member guests to most events. Check the calendar of events on our website for details. Discussion Groups are for members only.
Business meetings cannot be held at the library (other than Athenæum discussion groups or as arranged by the Director’s office).
Initially you will receive a temporary paper membership card. A permanent plastic card will be issued three-four weeks later. The permanent card will not have an expiration date and is renewable: you will not receive a new card every year. Your ID number is your library account number.
Contact the Membership office for a replacement. There is no fee for replacement membership cards, however please note it may take up to three-four weeks for a permanent card to be mailed to you. In the interim, you will be provided a temporary paper card.
Yes. Invoices are sent sixty days in advance of your membership expiration date. This coincides with the sixty-day book allowance. Second notices are sent the month your membership expires. Please return your invoice intact. It is helpful to include your ID number on your check.
Library membership is considered “goods and services” by the IRS, and therefore is not tax-deductible. Only gifts and donations will receive a gift receipt for your tax files.
A membership desk is on the first floor, just off the Bow Room. If the desk is unattended, please visit the main Membership Offices on the fourth floor.
You can make reservations online. If you have any difficulties registering or questions regarding event registration, please contact the Events Office at 617-720-7600.
Do I have access to the Library if the building is open for an event taking place outside of regular hours?
You may return or check-out books when the Library is open for lectures and Athenæum events. However, only the first floor is open during events outside of regular hours.
There is WiFi access throughout the Library for members. Please consult the signs throughout the building or a member of staff for instructions on how to connect to it. There are also computers with printing capabilities available for members’ use in the Reference Department on the second floor.
1G, 2G—are gallery level floors.
You can reach all floors by the marble staircase; however, be aware that the building is deceptively higher than it seems from out front. Each floor has a gallery level, so it is more like ten floors. Add the basement, Lower Pilgrim, and eleven levels of drum stacks, and you realize there is a lot of space. The elevator in the corner covers the basement to the fifth floor; the new elevator beyond the marble staircase reaches only the floors from Lower Pilgrim to the second floor. There is no elevator in the drum stacks.
A listing of the Rules and Regulations can be found here. Please consult the Membership and Development Office for Rules and Regulations concerning Proprietor shares.