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Member FAQ

Can I try out membership before I buy?
Yes, you can. We are happy to offer day passes for $40 per day, available at our front desk. If you enjoy your visit and want to join as a member that same day, we will deduct the $40 fee from the cost of your membership. Please visit the day pass page for more information.
We are also able to arrange brief prospective member tours if you are considering joining but don’t wish to purchase a day pass. Please contact 617-720-7604 or to arrange an appointment at least one business day in advance. 
What kind of books are in the Athenæum?
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 in our circulating, reference, and special collections, and we are constantly adding. Search Athena, the online catalog, to view what is available.
How many books may I check out at one time, and for how long?
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.
Is there an orientation for new members?
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.
I’d like to see an item in the special collections.  How do I access it?
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
May I bring my backpack, purse, or briefcase in?
Backpacks, briefcases, handbags larger than 11 x 15 inches, packages, and similar items are not permitted beyond the vestibule. Members and visitors are responsible for storing such items in the complimentary, key-operated day lockers located in the vestibule. Limited storage space may be available for items too large to fit into a locker; please ask a security guard for assistance. Valuable items (such as wallets, notebooks, and laptop computers) may be kept with you by requesting a clear Athenæum bag in which to carry them.
May I use my cell phone in the building?
As a courtesy to others in the building, 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. Cell phone calls are permitted in the lobby or in other areas designated by staff: please ask at the front desk.
May I bring food or drinks (non-alcoholic) to the building?
Beverages (non-alcoholic) 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.
May I bring a guest to an event or show them around the building?
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.
May I hold a meeting at the Athenæum?
Business meetings cannot be held at the library (other than Athenæum discussion groups or as arranged by the Director’s office).
I lost my card.  How do I get a replacement?
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.
Will I receive a renewal notice before my membership expires?
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 if you pay via check.
Can I divide my membership assessment into multiple payments?
Yes. We now offer annual installment billing by dividing the cost of your assessment over twelve months. If you choose to pay in installments, we will charge your card once a month for the duration of your membership. Please note, if you cancel your installments before you have completed all of your payments, the balance of your dues is payable within thirty days.
If you would like to set up installment payments for your membership, please contact the Membership office directly: (617) 720-7604 or
Are my membership dues tax-deductible?
 Membership is considered a “good or  service” by the IRS, and therefore is not tax-deductible. Only gifts and donations will receive a gift receipt for your tax files.
How do I make a reservation for an event?
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 building if it is open for an event taking place outside of regular hours?
You may return or check-out books when the building is open for lectures and Athenæum events. However, only the first floor is open during events outside of regular hours.
What computer access is offered?
There is WiFi access throughout the building 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.
What does the “G” mean in the elevator?
1G, 2G etc. are "gallery" level floors: balconies that allow us to shelve and make accessible more books, taking advantage of the full height of the reading rooms.
Where can I find a listing of the Boston Athenæum's Regulations?
A listing of the Regulations can be found here.  Please consult the Development Office for Rules and Regulations concerning Proprietor shares.