Rules & Regulations

Member access and book circulation

  • Members must present their membership cards at the front desk upon entering. Lost cards must be reported to the Membership team immediately.
  • The reading rooms and stack areas on all floors are open to active members, Life Members, and other persons authorized by the Board of Trustees or Director.
  • Circulating books may be checked out by presenting an active membership card at the front desk. Non-members picking up books for members must have the member’s card or permission by prior arrangement. All books must be returned in good condition.
  • The Library may restrict the duration of circulation and number of books that may be taken out at one time. Overdue fines will be assessed as appropriate.
  • A limited number of rentable lockers are available for storing non-Athenæum materials. Everything will be kept at the risk of the owner. Anything not stored in a rented locker must be removed from the building at the end of each day.



Members may bring guests (a maximum of five people per visit), to all floors of the library. Guests must register by presenting a photo ID at the front desk.


Visitors and Day Pass users 

  • All who enter must register by presenting a photo ID and paying the admission fee at the front desk.
  • The reading rooms and stack areas on all floors are open to Day Pass users.
  • The first floor—including all exhibition spaces—is open to visitors.



  • All people are required to silence their cell phones upon entering the building. Silent use of devices is allowed, including Internet use, texting, or listening to audio/video with headphones at a volume that cannot be heard by others. Phone calls are permitted only in designated areas: ask the staff for assistance. Refrain from calls including videoconferencing anywhere else in the building, including the stairwells, terraces, and the fifth-floor members’ lounge.

  • The fifth-floor reading room, the Gordon Newspaper Reading Room, and the Vershbow Special Collections Reading Room are designated as silent spaces.

  • All people in the building are expected to conduct themselves in a civil and courteous manner and in accordance with any rules or protocols adopted by the Boston Athenæum from time to time. Read the full BA Code of Conduct.



Members may carry bags, packages, and similar items smaller than 11 x 15 inches into the building.

Larger items and all visitors’ bags must be stored in the complimentary, key-operated day lockers in the lobby. Clear plastic bags are available to hold personal belongings (such as wallets, notebooks, and laptop computers) carried into the building. All articles are subject to inspection. A replacement fee of $100 will be assessed for any lost locker key. The Athenæum is not responsible for items that are stored.


Special Collections

Requests to see special collections materials must be made online. Anyone with a research interest in the collections may make an appointment.

Other rules

  • Flash-free photography is allowed with some restrictions. Tripods, selfie sticks, and other camera-holding devices are not allowed. Refrain from photographing people without their permission.

  • Smoking or vaping are not allowed inside, on the terraces, or in front of the building.

  • Beverages in closed containers are allowed. Food is only permitted in the fifth-floor members’ lounge, on the second- and fifth-floor terraces, and in designated staff areas, except during the Athenæum’s own event receptions and rentals.