A Visit to the La Jolla Athenaeum - a Reciprocal Library for Members | Mechanics' Institute

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A Visit to the La Jolla Athenaeum - a Reciprocal Library for Members

If you were not yet aware, the Mechanics’ Institute has reciprocal arrangements with other subscription libraries in the United States. If you're visiting one of the cities listed below, then you can visit the membership library there for up to 5 days (per year). You need only make arrangements through the Mechanics' Institute Membership Department before leaving for your trip. In January I made arrangements to visit the beautiful Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla, California.

The librarian, Kathi Peterson, gave my friends and me a tour. Located in a small building in La Jolla's downtown, the Athenaeum specializes in music and art, boasting a very impressive collection of vinyl phonograph records, sheet music, librettos, art and music books, DVDs, and music CDs. They also have a unique collection of "artists' books" - books of artwork by a given artist published in very limited editions. Kathi also showed us the classroom where they teach art classes to members. In addition to art classes, the Athenaeum hosts lectures on music, art, and art history. She and her staff actively participate in the curation of "The Murals of La Jolla" and provide guided walking tours of these murals as part of the Athenaeum's regularly scheduled activities.

In 1894 a small group of women formed a reading club that acquired a small building in 1898. By 1899 the group incorporated itself as "The Library Association of La Jolla" which then became the subscription library they have now. In 2016 the Athenaeum expanded to a second location in downtown San Diego near Coronado Island. Along with galleries, it includes classrooms and studios.

Although the library is not open on Mondays, the building opens for a free (to everyone) "mini-concert" most Monday afternoons. We took advantage of this during my visit to enjoy a jazz concert by pianist Mikan Zlatovich accompanied by Ben Wanicur on upright bass.

I very highly recommend that if you are traveling you take some time to visit one of these subscription libraries. They all have histories and stories as interesting as the Mechanics' Institute. They typically occupy beautiful buildings and carry eclectic collections.


City, State / Library name 

Boston, MA / The Boston Athenaeum

Brooklyn, NY / The Center for Fiction 

Charleston, SC / The Charleston Library Society

Cincinnati, OH / The Mercantile Library of Cincinnati

Johnsbury, VT / St. Johnsbury Athenaeum

La Jolla, CA / The Athenaeum Music and Arts Library

New Haven, CT / The Institute Library of New Haven

New York, NY / The New York Society Library

Newport, RI / Redwood Library and Athenaeum

Philadelphia, PA / The Athenaeum of Philadelphia

Portland, ME / Mechanics' Hall

Portsmouth, NH / The Portsmouth Athenaeum

Providence, RI / The Providence Athenaeum

Salem, MA / The Salem Athenaeum

Seattle, WA / Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum

St. Louis, MO / The St. Louis Mercantile Library i

Summerville, SC / Timrod Literary & Library Association

Tryon, NC / Lanier Library of North Carolina

Posted on Mar. 1, 2024 by Steven Dunlap