Welcome to the New Bedford
FREE Public Library

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 Bookmobile is on the road 20 – 25 hours per week.

Portuguese language materials are available at the Casa da Saudade branch and Spanish language materials are available at the Howland Green branch.


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.


To be New Bedford’s primary place to go for materials, information and educational support for all ages, learn about each other in a safe and welcoming environment, preserve local history, art and special collections for increased access, and build an engaged and connected community.