Partner Highlight – The Associates of the Boston Public Library

The Boston Public Library’s work is supported by a diverse and broad range of supporters. In addition to City and State taxpayer funding, support comes to us from individuals and partner organizations as well. We are grateful to all who support us – whether through the BPL Fund, our principal fundraising partner, or through the Citywide or local Library Friends groups.

Today we would like to highlight another of our affiliate organizations, the Associates of the Boston Public Library, who shepherd funding in support of the Special Collections.

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Associates of the Boston Public Library. In that time, the organization has grown from a small group of book-loving Bostonians into a substantial source of funding for the Library’s Special Collections.

In the current fiscal year, in collaboration with the Library, the Associates has now committed over $1.13 million—the largest amount in the organization’s history. This funding supports eight full-time positions in the Special Collections departments, as well as a wide range of digitization and other special projects. This growth in funding brings the total support from the Associates over the past decade to more than $4.75 million.

“We are grateful for the many donors who have supported the work of the Library through the Associates of the Boston Public Library across many years,” said BPL President David Leonard. “We are thrilled that through clear articulation of need and priorities and responsible stewardship, sustained funding via the Associates has passed this new milestone. These funds ensure that many of our treasures are conserved, made accessible, and will be enjoyed, free to all, for many years to come. Philanthropic support is critical to the BPL’s ability to fulfill our obligations to our patrons and our community, and we look forward to working together with all of our partners to provide resources directly where they are needed most.

The Associates support is directed to the conservation, cataloging, and digitization work that that BPL deems most critical. Over time, this funding has helped to conserve the oversized posters by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec that were included in the Library’s joint exhibit with the MFA; the BPL’s Shakespeare First Folio; and the digitization of prints and photographs documenting the culture and history of our city and the wider world -- to name just some of the areas they have supported.

According to Louisa Stephens, the Associates’ Executive Director, one of the collections the Associates is most proud to have played a role in conserving, cataloging, digitizing, and promoting is the BPL’s vast Anti-Slavery Collection. “With all the turmoil our nation has faced and is facing with regard to race and inequity, the writings of the abolitionists have so much to teach us about our own history. To ensure that the letters and publications of the men and women who fought so hard to end the institution of slavery stand strong against the toll of time feels like meaningful work to all of us,” Stephens added.

In addition to its support for the BPL’s preservation work, the Associates also underwrites certain programming initiatives to help raise the profile of the BPL in certain communities, its collections, and its services. Among these programs is the Pierce Performance Series, which showcases items in the Special Collections through the performing arts; the Hundred Year Retroactive Book Award, which celebrates century-old books; and the Writer-in-Residence program, which provides a stipend to an aspiring author writing for children or young adults to spend time honing a manuscript at the BPL.

If you are interested in learning more about the Associates and their work, please visit