Frequently Asked Questions

The Livingston Masonic Library answers thousands of reference questions each year. Unfortunately, this service stretches the resources of our limited number of staff to the limit. Before you contact the Library staff directly with your question, please check this list of FAQs to see if your question is answered here.

Who are the Freemasons?
Do the Freemasons still build cathedrals and churches?
Do I have to be a Freemason to visit the Livingston Masonic Library?
May I borrow books from the Library?
What kinds of books do you have?
Can I browse your shelves?
What else do you have besides books?
What about the historical exhibits?
Can I see your collections on-line?
Can you tell me if my ancestor was a Freemason?

 


 

Who are the Freemasons?

The Freemasons, the Masons, or the “Free & Accepted Masons (F&AM)”, is a world-wide fraternal organization composed of men of high integrity, who join together, under the fatherhood of God, to further the practice of a moral code; proven by a long distinguished history; relevant to the complexities of the world today and founded on the highest standards of ethics, honesty and character.

 

Do the Freemasons still build cathedrals and churches?

Freemasons do not practice the “operative” skills of the craft masons, or stonemasons, who built the great cathedrals of Europe during the Middle Ages. Freemasons practice “speculative” Masonry, which symbolically applies the tools of the craftsman as lessons in personal growth and morality, thereby “building” a better life for the individual in his roles as a son, a brother, a father, a citizen, and a friend.

 

Do I have to be a Freemason to visit the Livingston Masonic Library?

The Library and the historical exhibits are open to any member of the public who would like to visit.

 

May I borrow books from the Library?

We currently loan books only to members of Masonic lodges under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge F&AM of New York. Non-members are welcome to read books in the Library during our open hours.

Library Borrowing Policy and Procedures

 

What kinds of books do you have?

Our collection focuses on Freemasonry, its history, symbolism, and philosophy. We have books written on these subjects from around the world. We also have extensive holdings on the histories and acitivities of individual Masonic lodges in New York State, Masonic periodicals from across the country and the world, and biographies of individual Freemasons.

We also collect books on subjects relating to Freemasonry and different interpretations and aspects of Freemasonry. We have an extensive collection of esoteric and occult studies material, books about non-Masonic fraternal organizations, works about comparative religions and mythological studies, literature written by Masons, and anti-Masonic material. Our collection includes works which describe the numerous and sometimes contradictory views of Freemasonry that have existed and continue to develop. The Library makes no judgement as to the validity of the theories and ideas presented in individual books in our holding; our mission is to make all books about Masonry available to our patrons.

More information about the Collections

 

Can I browse your shelves?

Our stacks are closed, but visitors are welcome to use our database catalog, which performs title, author, and keyword searches. The catalog is available both on-line and at the Manhattan branch. We also maintain our card catalog for visitors who are uncomfortable with electronic search tools. The staff will retrieve books for visitors to use.

 

What else do you have besides books?

The Library has comprehensive subject files on topics relating to Freemasonry, biographical files on famous Freemasons, and archival holdings on matters relating to Freemasonry and Masonic lodges in New York State. These files will be available on-line in the future.

The Library also includes a Museum, with over 50,000 artifacts in its holdings. The artifact collections relate to not only Freemasonry in New York, but also reflect aspects of Freemasonry around the world.

 

What about the historical exhibits?

The Library  houses regular exhibits on Masonic symbolism, history, and noted Masons from New York State and across the world. Our holdings include a letter written by George Washington, a desk belonging to Norman Vincent Peale, a Masonic apron and collar worn by Simon Bolivar, a bust carved by Gutzon Borglum and thousands of artifacts relating to Freemasonry and Freemasons from the past three hundred years.

 

Can I see your collections on-line?

The Library has been conducting a digital conversion of our manuscript and artifact holdings in recent years, and those collections are now available on-line. We intend to bring more of our collections on-line in the future.

 

Can you tell me if my ancestor was a Freemason?

Our collections include membership records for New York State Masons from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. To review our genealogical research process, click here.