The Nantucket Atheneum—the island’s unique library—is a vital community hub open 6 days per week year-round for all ages on Nantucket. The Atheneum welcomes more than 170,000 visitors each year and offers free access to 1.6 million books, CDs, DVDs and downloadables, free information services with 36 public access computers and WiFi, and over 1,300 free educational and cultural programs per year for all ages. Its historic building listed on the National Register of Historic Places is enhanced with artworks and artifacts celebrating its history and the history of Nantucket.

The Nantucket Atheneum evolved from the Nantucket Mechanics Social Library and the Columbian Library Society, which were both founded on the island in the early 1820’s. These two social libraries joined forces in 1827 to become the Universal Library Association, which moved in 1833 to a renovated Universalist Church at the corner of Federal Street and Pearl Street. In 1834 the library was incorporated as the Nantucket Atheneum, a private membership library with eighteen-year-old Maria Mitchell as its first librarian. The Great Fire of 1846 destroyed the original library building and virtually all of its collections. The Atheneum was rebuilt on the same site in 1847 and became a free public library in 1900. A significant renovation of the Atheneum took place in 1996, including the addition of the Weezie Library for Children.

Financial support of the Nantucket Atheneum is a responsibility shared by the town and the community. The Atheneum receives 25% of its operating revenue from town and state governments with the remaining 75% provided through individual and foundation donations. Each year, the Atheneum sponsors the Annual Giving Campaign, the Cold Turkey Plunge on Thanksgiving Day, and the summer Nantucket Atheneum Dance Festival to raise critical operating revenues.

Ensuring a high standard of excellence, the Nantucket Atheneum is certified by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) and is a member of the Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing (CLAMS) network.