Nantucket’s Atheneum is more than just the island’s free public library. Hosting daily activities for people of all ages, it also acts much like a community center— and is a highly appreciated landmark amongst locals and visitors alike.
Don’t just trust our word. Trust the 170,000+ guests that The Atheneum welcomes each year. Let’s explore why this iconic library receives such high volumes of foot traffic and praise:
This library had been a dream of island locals as early as the 1820s. It evolved from the Nantucket Mechanics Social Library and the Columbian Library Society, who later formed the the Universal Library Association. It operated under this pretext for a number of years until 1833, when the association moved inside of an old church on the corner of Federal and Pearl Street and expanded.
Unfortunately, only a little over a decade later, The Great Fire destroyed the entire structure and most of the library’s collection. It was rebuilt in 1847 and experienced many changes, especially during its renovation in the 1990s, but has been standing tall ever since— in its white pillared glory.
Today, the library is lined with adorned artwork and artifacts, celebrating the history of Nantucket, making it a must-stop for its architecture, art and literary collections.
Can’t enough of the island’s rich history? Check out the Top 5 Must-See Historic Spots on Nantucket.
You won’t have time to browse them all on your vacation, but you can certainly pick through The Atheneum’s 1.6 million books, CDs, DVDs and downloadables.
While visiting, pick up a book by one of Nantucket’s very own local authors to remind yourself of the island while relaxing in your armchair at home.
Didn’t pack a laptop? Let the kiddos explore the library while you use one of their 36 public access computers or personal WiFi. It’s a convenient spot to knock out a few emails before getting back to your family.
It’s not just books. The Nantucket Atheneum offers educational and cultural programs for those in all walks of life: adults, elders, children and teens.
From lectures, classes, and workshops to concerts and performances, there’s always something happening each week. For example, The Literacy Volunteers of the Atheneum offer a drop-in beginner's English class every Thursday evening to improve your language skills. Or this past week, the library had a sea claim painting day for teens, and another day, a talk with the local author about their popular novel.
Bring your child in for a group preschool story time or encourage your little one to read a few lines when one of the library’s therapy dogs are visiting. These furry friends are oftentimes the best listeners and can encourage even the shyest of children to turn the pages of their favorite book.
From yoga in the gallery to scientific demonstrations in The Atheneum’s outdoor garden, check their calendar to see what’s going on while you’re on the island.
With only 25% of its operating costs covered by the town and government, the community of Nantucket is responsible for providing the remaining 75% of funds. Since local donors and foundations help to support the brunt of the costs, The Atheneum is always looking for donations.
If you love literature, stop by and support your island’s favorite free public library.
For your convenience, The Atheneum is open 6 days per week, year-round. Any day but Sunday, visit India Street to experience the island’s unique library.
It’s always nice to be prepared for your getaway. If are actively planning what you’ll do on your island vacation, check out our blog for more local insights on the best Nantucket attractions.
Have you thought about where you’ll eat? There are dozens of highly rated restaurants dotted across the island. Download our Complete Guide to Nantucket’s Restaurants Booklet to see our recommended choices.
If you haven’t figured out where you’ll be staying, consider also downloading our Nantucket Property Lookbook to be close to the best island action.