Greater City Providence

Providence Community Library

See update on Main Branch Library at end of post

Though it is vitally important to the city, we haven’t been doing a very good job (or any job really) of following the Libraries story here at GC:PVD. Frankly, I’m utterly confused by the whole thing and every time I try to understand it my brain explodes a little. A private board with public funding, that the government seemingly can’t control, running the system into the ground… I think it is one of those only in Rhode Island things that hurts my head, like navigating by where things used to be.

Well tomorrow is the day that the Providence Community Library takes over the 9 branches of the Providence Public Library (not including the main Library on Washington Street downtown (that is a whole other brain exploding situation)). To mark the occassion, the PCL is having a celebration tomorrow at all branch locations (including the newly re-opened Washington Park branch):

July 1 Celebration

To commemorate the transfer of library operations from Providence Public Library to Providence Community Library on July 1, local libraries will be marking this historic event, with celebrations at each of the nine libraries. To start, a day of amnesty has been declared on library fines, meaning that overdue books owned by the nine libraries can be returned without charge. Ribbons will be cut to open each building that day, and books will ceremonially be relayed from neighborhood to neighborhood over the course of the afternoon. The relay kicks off at the Knight Memorial branch at 2:30 pm, traveling counter-clockwise around the city and arriving back on Elmwood Avenue at 7:00 pm. Commemorative T-shirts will also be for sale at every library.

Additionally, each branch planned its own celebration for the day. The activities will include karaoke at Olneyville Library, origami lessons at Rochambeau and a cookout at Smith Hill. “This is an exciting day for the city of Providence,” says Matthew Lawrence, one of the organizers of the celebrations. “It’s also a great opportunity for people to rediscover their neighborhood libraries, and a chance for each neighborhood to show off for an afternoon.”

The relay times are:

  • 2:30 Knight Memorial
  • 3:00 Washington Park
  • 3:30 South Providence
  • 4:00 Fox Point
  • 4:30 Rochambeau
  • 5:00 Wanskuck
  • 5:30 Smith Hill
  • 6:00 Mount Pleasant (as they close…)
  • 6:30 Olneyville
  • back to Knight for 7:00

PCL is also soliciting public participation in their search for an Executive Director, they have public meetings scheduled with the three finalists:

Search for PCL Executive Director

The three finalists for the position of Executive Director of the new Providence Community Library (PCL), will appear at public meetings where library patrons can learn about their backgrounds and hear them present their views on the present and future role of the public library in the urban community.

The first public meeting, with Donna Riegal, director of the North Palm Beach Library in Florida, took place on Thursday June 25th at 6:30 at the Wanskuck Library (223 Veasie Street)

The 2nd meeting, with Ophelia Gregiev Roop, director of the San Bernadino (CA) Library, will be held on Tuesday June 30th at 7:00 at the Mount Pleasant Library (314 Academy Avenue)

There has been a change in the scheduling of the final candidate for the position of PCL Executive Director. Ann Robinson, until recently the Associate Head Librarian of the Worcester Public Library, will be speaking at the 3rd Meeting on Thursday, July 2nd at 7:00 at Rochambeau Library (708 Hope Street)

Please feel free to come to as many meetings as you wish. This is a chance to meet the person who may be directing our library!

The first meeting has already taken place, the second is tonight.

So what’s up with the main branch downtown? I have no idea, I’ve heard it will be closing at some point this summer, I’ve heard that all the staff will be fired and replaced when or if it re-opens, I’ve heard it will only open as a by-appointment research library… I’ve heard a lot of things, anyone who has a more concrete idea about what the hell is going on there, feel free to post in the comments, or contact me.

Update: I was forwarded some information about what’s doing at the Main Branch (Washington and Empire) of the library:

Dear Library Patrons:

Beginning July 1, 2009, the Central Library of the Providence Public Library will operate independently. As of this date, the City of Providence and the newly formed Providence Community Library will take over operation of the city’s neighborhood branches.

Providence Public Library will continue to operate the downtown Central Library and the Statewide Reference Resource Center at 150 Empire Street. Central Library services and resources will be fully accessible. Days and hours of operation are as follows:

Central Library, 150 Empire Street, 455-8000

  • Monday, Thursday 1:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Tuesday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
  • Wednesday CLOSED
  • Friday, Saturday 12:30 – 5:30 pm
  • Sunday (September 13 – May 16) 1:00 – 5:00 pm

AskRI Statewide Reference Resource Center and Online Chat, Email & Phone hours:

  • Monday & Thursday 8:30 am – 8:30 pm
  • Tuesday 8:30 am – 6:00 pm
  • Wednesday 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
  • Friday & Saturday 8:30 am – 5:30 pm

Additional information about Library programs and services, including access to the statewide AskRI online reference services are available at

Open hours and services at each of the neighborhood branch libraries will continue. More detailed information regarding the new municipal branch library system may be obtained at Providence Community Library.

New Central Library Hours to Begin July 6

Providence Public Library will be OPEN Wednesday, July 1, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm and Thursday, July 2, Noon|8:00 pm, and CLOSED Friday, July 3 and Saturday, July 4. The Library’s new schedule will be in effect beginning Monday, July 6. Please take a copy of our new schedule of hours.

Serving Rhode Island learners for 135 years…
It’s what we do.

Since 1875, Providence Public Library has led residents of Providence and all Rhode Island to opportunities for lifelong learning and cultural enrichment. The Library is a private, nonprofit corporation providing free public library services through print, recorded, and digital collections, information resources, programs of interest and relevance, and expert staff.

As we have been for 135 years, the Library is committed to this mission and to the generations of future learners who will come through our doors or turn to us for information and other enrichment opportunities.

Over the decades, the Library has evolved to ensure that we are providing relevant and high quality library service to all. While the size and shape of our organization has continually changed to reflect our dedication to these ideals, and while we have often developed and provided programs and services for the benefit of Providence residents as well as all Rhode Island library patrons, our fundamental mission endures.

Providence Public Library remains committed to fostering a community of readers and learners through a set of core library services, including access to our vast and unique collections, delivery of excellent service — both person to person and through evolving technologies, offering a variety of exceptional programs for learners of all ages, and serving as that special community gathering place that can only be described as your library.

So that’s the info I have on the main branch, again, my brain explodes a little every time I think about this situation.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • I wonder why that little tidbit about the central liberry doesn’t say anything about everyone who lost their jobs.

  • You want more info about the Libraries? More? OK, here’s a press release about tomorrow’s festivities:

    With a leasing agreement freshly signed between the city and the Providence Public Library (PPL), the Providence Community Library (PCL) is ready to take over the nine buildings formerly managed by the PPL. Tomorrow, July 1, from the Southside to the North End, each library will be holding a celebration to mark this uniquely historic transition.

    Ribbons will be cut and commemorative t-shirts will be sold. Books will ceremonially be related around the city from library to library. Additionally, each branch will be holding its own celebration. Here is a complete list of activities by community:

    • Fox Point: Food, live music by Annikki Dawn and Orion Rigel Dommisse, crafts for kids, and storytelling. 5-7pm.
    • Knight Memorial: Potluck. 6pm.
    • Mount Pleasant: Refreshments and kids’ crafts. 4-6pm.
    • Rochambeau: Musicians, origami, and storyteller Mark Binder. 3-5:30pm.
    • Olneyville: Karaoke and refreshments. 5-7:30
    • Smith Hill: A cookout in the back garden, with kids’ activities inside. 4-7pm.
    • South Providence: Cookout in front of the library. Raffles and a commemorative poster to sign. 3-6pm.
    • Wanskuck: A ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by flower-planting and refreshments. 1pm.
    • Washington Park: A Bigfoot film festival, including a debate and snacks. 2pm.

    A list of each library’s hours on that day is available at, as is the relay schedule. The race will begin at 2:30 at Knight Memorial on Elmwood Ave, then travel counter-clockwise around the city by foot, car, and horse until it arrives back at Knight for 7pm.

  • Thanks for posting that. Sorry if I’ve been overly press release-happy lately.

  • I laughed out loud at Jef’s post… I completely don’t understand the library issues fully myself… All of the articles, editorials, counter-editorials, etc haven’t jelled for me, and have indeed been headache inducing… As long as we end up with some kind of usable library system that most post-hunter-gatherer civilizations have been able to maintain since Greco-Roman times I’ll be happy…

    Wake me when that happens…

  • I’ve been following the library saga for several years. Here’s how I see it:

    The library trustees played chicken with the city and lost. In order to save face, they turned over the 9 branches, laid most of the staff off (and the director, who makes 140K per year (!!!!) is taking a 10% pay cut to manage 90$ fewer branches and staff. The Library will hold on to the “central branch” which has been so neutered over the course of four years that it is hardly recognizable from the incredible resource it used to be. They will hold on to it because the building is worth money. My gut feeling is that within a year, or when the market starts to bounce back a bit, that will be the first building sold to a developer.

    Meanwhile, a bunch of people who truly believe in the value of community libraries organized and managed to take control of the 9 branches and I wish them all the best, but without the cornerstone, flagship library and its resources, I just have no idea how successful it is going to be.

  • PBN reports that the PCL has named Ann A. Robinson as their first Director.

    I thought this was interesting:

    Rau[b] also said the salary would be “considerably less” than that of Dale Thompson, executive director of the Providence Public Library. The amount earned by Thompson and other PPL administrators was frequently criticized by patrons’ advocates prior to the system’s breakup. They have taken a 10 percent pay cut in the new fiscal year as the PPL transitions to running just the Central Branch.

    You lose 9 branches of a 10 branch system and you get a 10% pay cut? Maybe that says something about how much effort was put into the branches by the PPL.

Providence, RI
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