New Bedford Free Public Library

The New Bedford Free Public Library, through free and equal access to materials, information, knowledge and technology, enriches the lives of the community by cultivating lifelong learners and readers.


Established in 1852 by a city ordinance, the New Bedford Free Public Library is among the earliest free municipal libraries in the United States. Beginning in 1857 and housed in the building now used as City Hall until 1910, the core of the library’s original holdings contained books, periodicals and other materials purchased from the New Bedford Social Library (founded in 1807), which had assimilated the collections of the Encyclopedia Society, New Bedford Library Society, New Bedford Athenaeum and Lyceum. 

Built as a City Hall in the 1830’s, the present building was reconstructed after a fire in 1906. Once reconstruction was complete, the buildings switched permanently and is now home to significant historical holdings, including materials on Whaling, Quaker and 19th century Abolition Movement and museum-quality collection of fine art.

The Library consists of the Main Library, four branches and a Bookmobile.  The Wilks, Howland-Green and Francis J. Lawler Branches were built with funds left in trust to the library by Sylvia Ann Howland-Green Wilks, whose mother was the famous financier Hetty Green. The Casa da Saudade Branch was built with a federal fund in 1971. The Main Library is open 64 hours per week and the branches are open 40 hours per week.

The library offers aspiring entrepreneurs and all holders of library cards free access to study rooms, computers, internet, and a wealth of research materials available in print and online.

Services Provided

Libraries and Research

  • Business Research Resources
  • Demographic/Census Data

Marketing and Sales

  • Demographics/Census Data


  • Conference/Meeting and Event Space (Specialty)
  • Coworking (Specialty)
  • Makerspace / Hackerspace

Starting a Business

  • Business Research Resources


  • Online Courses and Videos
Contact Information
Olivia Melo
613 Pleasant St
New Bedford, MA 02740