Nantucket Atheneum

Nantucket Atheneum Board Chair Letter

Dear Friends of the Nantucket Atheneum:

This is my first letter to you as Chair of the Atheneum’s Board of Trustees. It is an honor and a privilege to be in this role. Public libraries are the lifeblood of their communities. The Atheneum is that and more to the people of this island.


I am delighted to report that the Atheneum is in splendid condition by all measures. In the past year, Molly Anderson and her talented team delivered over 1,300 high quality programs to our island’s full time and seasonal residents. Our financial picture is strong – a balanced budget, record fund raising of over $1.1 million, and a growing endowment. The Dance Festival, now a major cultural event, once again brought some of the world’s greatest ballet dancers to our island and presented a sublime evening of dance. We have a talented and engaged board of trustees who have committed their knowledge, leadership, and resources to the Atheneum. We honored our heritage with programs celebrating the 200th birthday of Frederick Douglass and his five speeches at the Atheneum. Over the course of the year, over 165,000 visitors made full use of the resources of this great library as well as finding it a gathering place for conversation, exploration, learning, and contemplation. It is a vibrant, wonderful place in which to hang out.

We are proud of the Atheneum and we know you are as well. You show your appreciation with your generous financial support and we can’t thank you enough for that. Your donations pay for about 75 percent of the Atheneum’s operating costs. We are accessible and free to everyone.
You make that possible. Thank you so much.


Every year we must get better in order to stay financially strong, relevant, and indispensable to the quality of life on Nantucket. We know that we must regularly revisit our priorities and operating assumptions and create new ideas, strategies, and possibilities for the future.

We spent considerable time this year thinking about the future of the Atheneum with significant input from the Atheneum staff and the community. We are excited about this work. We cannot predict the future but we can build on our existing strengths to position the Atheneum to respond effectively to changes in the needs of our community and our operating environment going forward.

Let me highlight three goals for the next few years.

We have a talented, dedicated staff, an extraordinary Executive Director, and a strong, engaged Board of Trustees. We need to insure that we invest in the professional development of our people, position the Atheneum to attract and retain talented professionals in both leadership and technical positions, and continue to recruit the very best talent for our Board. Our Executive Committee and our Committee on Trustees have laid out specific goals and deliverables for the next two years in this area.

We are financially solid today because of strong expense management, a well-managed endowment, an excellent development function and your generosity. Going forward, we need to expand the tools in our development tool box. We will launch a major gifts program next year. This is not a one time effort but rather a permanent program designed to provide donors with the rationale and opportunity to provide major support. Our Dance Festival Committee is also working on ways to expand sponsorship opportunities and participation.

The hallmark of a public library is universal access at no cost to users. Direct support is essential to free access and we must expand our efforts to communicate the unique public private nature of our role. We also believe that we should develop better ways to measure and communicate the impact of the Atheneum and value to the community. We need to make the case for support in terms of more specific outcomes and measures. And then tell our story.


This year Bob Greenspon stepped down after chairing the Board for over four years. Bob brought energy, wisdom and passion for all things Atheneum to his role. The Board honored Bob at the June Annual Meeting by awarding him the title Chair Emeritus.

We also said goodbye to four trustees whose terms expired. Thank you Barbara Jones, Will Hannum, Jeanne Miller and Bonnie McCausland. They were engaged, impactful trustees and we are deeply grateful for their service.

We are delighted to welcome our new class of trustees – Tracy Flannery, Sam Flax, Clement Durkes, Marcia Welch, and Barbara Fife. We know that each will make a difference moving forward.

Thank you again for your support of the Atheneum. You make so much possible and we are deeply grateful. I hope you are as excited about the future of the Atheneum as we are and we look forward to seeing you soon at our fabulous public library.

Warm regards,
Joan Gulley, Chair