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Using the Library

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Reference Department

Reference librarians and the main reference collection are located on the second floor of the Athenæum. We are happy to assist members whether researching an extensive scholarly project, learning how to use Athena, (the Athenæum's online catalog), curious about an obscure fact, or looking for a cozy mystery to read over the weekend.

Circulation Desk

The Circulation Desk at the Boston Athenæum is located on the first floor, just beyond the Security Desk. Here members may check out and return books, reserve books, sign up for Art & Architecture Tours or meet for New Member Tours, and ask for help finding books. Gift shop items may also be purchased at the Circulation Desk.

Computer and Equipment Resources for Members

  • WiFi
    • WiFi access is available throughout the building.
    • Ask a staff member or consult the signs throughout the Library for the WiFi password.
  • Computers
    • Computers for checking Athena, the Boston Athenæum Catalog, are located on the first, second, third, and fourth floors and in the basement and sub-basement.
    • Computers running Windows and offering a variety of services such as Internet access and Microsoft Office are available on the second floor and fifth floor. All files saved to these computers are erased when each day when they are rebooted. The charge for printing (black & white only) is 10 cents per single page or 5 cents per side for double-sided pages. See a reference librarian or Printing Instructions for help.
  • Basic Computer skills
    • Reference librarians at the Boston Athenæum are always happy to help one-on-one with questions. Stop by the Reference Desk any time or click on the "Need Help, Ask a Librarian" button to request an appointment at a specific day and time.
    • For help learning basic skills, try these websites with tutorials introducing the parts of a computer, mousing & keyboard skills, along with other instructions.
    • Need Help? Ask a Librarian!: These workshops will take place every month (check the Events Calendar).  Each month, a different topic will help you learn about library services. Bring your questions!

  • Scanning and Copying
    • All scanners and copiers are located on the second floor
    • Books and other materials may be copied using a black & white photocopier with a book handler at a cost of 25 cents per page or 40 cents per double-sided page. Please ask a reference librarian for help with fragile books.
    • Microfilm can be read using a microfilm reader that saves to USB drive or can print to a printer.  See a reference librarian or online microfilm reader instructions for help.
    • A wide variety of materials can be scanned to a smartphone via a free downloadable app. There is a stand providing a holder for your phone and good lighting on the second floor, near the Vershbow Special Collections Reading Room entrance. See a reference librarian or online instructions for help.


Locate books and periodicals in the library.


Click here to browse resources available online.


Renew a book or Request a book for pick-up or via our mailing service.


ILL Request
Want a book from another library? Make an interlibrary loan request.


Members: Want a place to study or read? See a reading room.