2019 Nantucket Atheneum Board Chair Letter

2019 Nantucket Atheneum Board Chair Letter

December 2019

Dear Friends of the Nantucket Atheneum:

This is my second annual letter to you as Chair of the Atheneum’s Board
of Trustees. These letters are an important opportunity to provide an
update on the past year, our thoughts for the coming year and, most
important, to thank you for your generosity and support.


2019 has certainly been an important and eventful year for the
Nantucket Atheneum. Molly Anderson, our extraordinary Executive
Director for over 14 years, retired.

Molly brought wisdom, vision, amazing creativity and boundless
energy to the role. We cannot thank her enough for her
contributions to the Atheneum and our community.

We were thrilled to welcome Ann Scott as only the ninth Executive
Director of the Atheneum. Ann was the unanimous choice of the
Board of Trustees following a comprehensive, nationwide search.

As you would expect, Ann has an excellent background in library
management with over seventeen years of experience in a broad
array of library leadership roles. She is thoughtful, engaging, and an
excellent listener and communicator. Throughout her career,she has
demonstrated strong leadership, imagination, and the ability to build
highly effective connections with individuals and other organizations.
She appreciates Nantucket’s rich history, the importance of libraries
to their communities, and the indispensable role that the Atheneum
plays on our island.

Our Board is confident that Ann Scott is the right leader for the next
phase of the Atheneum’s history. We also understand that a
leadership transition provides an opportunity to recognize who we
are today, to build on our strengths and to position the Atheneum to
respond effectively to changes in the needs of our community and
our environment moving forward. We are excited about the


While we devoted considerable effort to the search for a new executive director, I am happy to report that the Atheneum had an excellent year by all measures. Our talented staff welcomed and assisted over 167,000 visitors to the Atheneum and delivered over 1300 adult, teen, and children’s programs
which were enjoyed by over 30,000 program participants. Our website was visited almost 700,000 times and our staff visited island schools and met with over 1000 children to promote summer reading.

Our immensely popular Geschke lectures covered topics this summer ranging from U.S. foreign policy to the impact of technology in our lives. Our meeting rooms were used over 1000 times by other island organizations in support of civic and community engagement. Our fundraising was at record levels and our endowment continued to grow. We are a strong, healthy institution however you choose to measure it.

The Atheneum Dance Festival, which has become a signature cultural event, brought world class performers to the island who delivered two sublime evenings of artistic achievement and a magical week of dance lectures, lessons, demonstrations, and children’s programs. Each year we think the Dance Festival cannot get better and then it does.

We observed the 200th anniversary of Herman Melville’s birthday with a number of events culminating in a marathon reading of Moby Dick. And with hundreds of enthusiastic plungers continuing to jump in the harbor Thanksgiving morning, we recalled the words of a former Board chair when he asked, “Who does not love the Turkey Plunge?”

Day in, day out the Atheneum connects people, provides resources to learn, to explore, to grow and to enjoy. It is a warm, vibrant, place where everyone is welcome. It is a cultural center, a community center, a learning center, a center for exploration and innovation and so much more. You make that
possible with your generosity and support. We can’t thank you enough for the difference you make.


Every year we must get better in order to stay financially strong, relevant, and indispensable to the quality of life on Nantucket. Over the next few years, we intend to challenge ourselves in three areas.

First, to continue to meet community needs with free access to top quality library, resources, services and programs. We have done an excellent job over time in providing relevant programs and services to our community. But we must always challenge ourselves to better understand those needs, to identify underserved populations, to use new data sources and tools to measure and validate those needs and to insure that what we provide is making a difference. This will be a forever goal.

Second, to ensure the Nantucket Atheneum remains financially stable, resilient, and sustainable. Careful expense management, a well-managed endowment, excellent development efforts, and your generosity ensure that today’s Atheneum is financially solid. But we must do better if we are to insure the future of this precious organization. Every year we must raise over $1 million for operating expenses. We must accomplish more in every category of financial management and fundraising to insure the future of the Atheneum. Another forever goal.

Third, to increase awareness and strengthen perception of the Nantucket Atheneum among key audiences and stakeholders. The hallmark of a public library is universal access at no cost. Financial support is essential for free access and we must continue to expand our efforts to communicate the
unique public/private nature of our role. I suspect this will also be a forever goal.


This year we said goodbye to six outstanding trustees whose terms expired. Thank you David Ross, Bonnie Sacerdote, Norb Donelly, Douglass Ellis, Liz McHenry and Porter Dawson for the energy, thoughtful guidance, commitment and support you brought to the Atheneum. We are deeply grateful for their service.

We are delighted to welcome our new class of trustees – Deborah Manus, Linda McGrath, Alan McKelvie, Tom Roeder, and Nat Philbrick. We know that each of these outstanding individuals will make a difference moving forward.

In closing, let me first acknowledge and thank our extraordinary and talented board of trustees for their dedication, wise counsel, commitment to the Atheneum and generosity of time and resources. 2019 was a critical year for the Atheneum and the leadership and strength of our board of trustees made all the difference.

Second, my deepest thanks to our dedicated, hardworking, talented staff for all they have accomplished in this year of transition.

And finally, I want to thank each of you, our generous supporters and donors. You make possible everything we do and we are deeply grateful for your support. We are excited about the future of the Atheneum and look forward to seeing you soon at our fabulous public library.

Warm regards,

Joan Gulley