The Redwood Library and Athenæum is the oldest lending library in America, and the oldest library building in continuous use in the country. Founded in 1747 by forty-six proprietors upon the principle of "having nothing in view but the good of mankind," its mission continues over 250 years later.
The Company of the Redwood Library was established in 1747 by Abraham Redwood and a group of his friends and associates. One of the country's earliest "public" libraries -- that is, open to the public though not "free"--Redwood is the oldest surviving lending library in the country. Redwood remains a "membership library" (open to the public) supported by Proprietors, who own shares and pay an annual assessment, and Subscribers, who pay fees. The Original Collection of 751 titles has grown to a collection numbering more than 160,000 volumes.
In 1833 the Library's name was changed to The Company of the Redwood Library and Athenaeum to reflect its expanding role as an educational institution. Today the Library is open without charge to qualified scholars and researchers and to those making use of the collections. Lectures, exhibitions, fine arts displays, and other educational activities are part of Redwood Library and Athenaeum's continuous offerings to the community.