In November of 1901, a plan for a public library was embraced by Atlantic City residents in a landslide referendum, with 6,062 voters in favor and only 30 opposed. Thus the Atlantic City Free Public Library was established, using as its nucleus 1,000 books from a small, privately-run library opened a few years earlier by the Women's Research Club, a cultural organization that still exists today.
The Library's first quarters were in the third floor of City Hall, located at Tennessee and Atlantic Avenues, where service began on April 3, 1902. The Library formally opened its doors on January 1, 1903, in a wood frame house at Illinois and Pacific Avenues. The land at this site had been recently purchased to be the Library's permanent location and became the Library's home. Subsequently Andrew Carnegie donated $71,000 for the construction. Dedication for this structure took place on January 2, 1905. The photo is of the Andrew Carnegie building circa 1910.
Plans for the current home of the Library began in 1981. The groundbreaking for the new building, located at Tennessee and Atlantic Avenues, took place on January 28, 1982. This modern two-story 3.8 million dollar building, dedicated on July 31, 1985, has a capacity of 135,000 volumes, and three times the reading space of its predecessor. Like its predecessor, it will serve the citizens of Atlantic City for decades.
The library provided a Richmond Branch at the original Richmond Avenue School from July 1923-July 2009. The school and library were demolished in 2009 after voters approved a referendum earlier that year to build new Richmond and Pennsylvania avenue schools.
During the construction of the new Richmond Avenue School, the library opened a temporary location - Library Express - at 3001 Atlantic Avenue. Local dignitaries and members of the community helped library staff members officially introduced the Atlantic City Library Express on Thursday, April 22, 2010. City of Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo T. Langford presented a proclamation that declared it “Atlantic City Library Express Day” in the city, and he saluted the library “for its dedicated and devoted efforts to provide learning opportunities and offer informational services to Atlantic City residents and visitors.” Library Express remained open until October 2012.
The library's new Richmond Branch Library, five times larger than its previous branch at that location, opened in Feb. 27, 2013. The branch is located at the new Richmond Avenue School at Ventnor and Windsor avenues.
The library has a "history" on the famed Atlantic City Boardwalk. In August 2012, the Atlantic City Historical Museum, located at Garden Pier, transferred its collections and exhibits to the library. At that time, the library also assumed operation of the museum. The museum was forced to close temporarily in October 2012 due to damage sustained during Superstorm Sandy before reopening in June 2014. The museum closed in August 2016 due to the City of Atlantic City's impending sale of Garden Pier.
In July 2019, the library's Atlantic City Experience (ACX) opened in the newly renovated lobby of Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall. Many of the items on display come from the library's extensive Atlantic City Heritage Collections. ACX showcases the culturally diverse heritage and exciting history of Atlantic City through a series of topical exhibits and nostalgic timeline. The exhibits highlight many of the important events, places and people for which Atlantic City is known. Iconic images from the city’s past are paired with digital displays and a video presentation with Atlantic City-themed music.
The Main library building was named the William K. Cheatham building by the Board of Trustee's resolution during the October 2021 monthly meeting.
|Atlantic City Free Public Library Directors|
Years as Director
Alvaretta Porter Abbott
April 1903 – April 23, 1919 [died]
Jessie French Adams (acting librarian)
May 1, 1919 – Oct. 1, 1920
Ray N. Newell
1941 – Nov. 30, 1952
Jessie L. Rowley
Dec. 1, 1952 – June 30, 1963
Ruth S. Wilson (temporary)
Richard J. Sweeney (temporary)
Jan. 1, 1971 – Dec. 1, 1976
Genevieve Nomer (acting director)
October 1975 – June 1982
Maureen Sherr Frank
June 1982 – March 1987
April 1987 - March 1988
Maureen Sherr Frank
April 1988 – November 2016
Robert P. Rynkiewicz
November 2016 - present