About Us

A membership agreement for new subscribers to the New York Society Library in 1789.
A membership agreement for new subscribers to the New York Society Library in 1789.

Membership Libraries

Membership libraries trace their history in America to the 18th century, when Benjamin Franklin founded the Library Company of Philadelphia. These libraries played a significant role in their communities. While most subscription libraries were replaced or taken over with the advent of free public libraries in the 19th century, several have survived and thrived.

More information about our sister institutions is available in the 2007 book America's Membership Libraries.

Reciprocal Privileges

Members of the New York Society Library have membership privileges at the Boston Athenaeum, Charleston Library Society, Mechanics' Institute Library, and Redwood Library and Athenaeum. This includes use of their reading rooms, permission to browse the stacks, and the ability check out books. Members visiting the Boston Athenaeum should inquire at our reference desk first for an ID card. The other libraries may call us to verify membership.

The Membership Libraries

1731: The Library Company of Philadelphia
1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
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1747: Redwood Library and Athenaeum
50 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI 02840
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1748: The Charleston Library Society
164 King Street, Charleston, SC 29401
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1753: The Providence Athenaeum
251 Benefit Street, Providence, RI 02903
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1754: The New York Society Library
53 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10075
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1807: The Boston Athenaeum
10½ Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108
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1810: The Salem Athenaeum
337 Essex Street, Salem, MA 01970
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1814: The Athenaeum of Philadelphia
219 South Sixth Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
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1817: The Portsmouth Athenaeum
9 Market Square, Portsmouth, NH 03801
1820: The General Society Library of New York City
20 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036
1820: The Maine Charitable Mechanic Association
519 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101
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1820: The Center for Fiction (Founded as the Mercantile Library)
17 East 47th Street, New York, NY 10017
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1826: The Institute Library of New Haven
847 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06510
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1835: The Mercantile Library of Cincinnati
414 Walnut Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
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1846: The St. Louis Mercantile Library Association
8001 Natural Bridge Road, St. Louis, Missouri 63121
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1855: The Mechanics' Institute Library of San Francisco
57 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94104
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1890: Lanier Library of North Carolina
72 Chestnut Street, Tryon, NC 28782
1899: The Athenaeum Music and Arts Library in La Jolla
1008 Wall Street, La Jolla, CA 92037