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.
Members of the New York Society Library have membership privileges at the Boston Athenaeum, Charleston Library Society, Mechanics' Institute Library, The Mercantile Library of Cincinnati, 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 a letter verifying membership. The other libraries may call us to verify membership.
The Membership Libraries