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Major renovation to Providence’s downtown library is completed

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Major renovation to Providence’s downtown library is completed

The $29 million project adds light and collaborative space to a 67-year-old wing.

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | September 25, 2020

The Providence Public Library is now sporting a revamped wing, auditorium, and special collections area that encompasses tens of thousands of books, manuscripts, photos, and other artifacts. Photos: Anton Grassl

The largest public library renovation in Rhode Island’s history was celebrated earlier this month when the Providence Public Library (PPL) posted a 23-minute-long video that served as a virtual ribbon cutting, followed a few days later by a grand opening gala.

The 18-month-long, $29 million renovation transformed 84,000 sf inside a library wing that was built in 1953. (The library itself opened in 1878.) The project converted the building’s Empire Street entrance into a three-story atrium, which has been opened since July. (The library itself was open all summer.) Glass replaced interior walls to create an open and light-filled concept. The renovation added a 2,500-sf workshop/maker space. The wing’s 255-seat auditorium was decked out with a new light and sound system. Space specifically for teen interaction and for digital collections was included.

Also see: The virtual ribbon cutting

The renovation was completed in line with PPL’s ongoing THINK AGAIN Capital Campaign for transforming the library in response to the changing needs of its community. “These renovations are a game-changer for everyone visiting and using our beloved library,” says Jack Martin, PPL’s Executive Director. “Through this complete transformation, we now have a beautiful and welcoming facility that fully complements our free cultural, educational, and career development programs and services, while also enabling our many community partners to utilize our spaces and resources like never before.”

A three-story atrium is the library wing's new centerpiece.



The ribbon cutting video—created by Eleven Design—featured encomiums from state and federal dignitaries, including Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (for whom an “information commons” in the renovated wing is named), Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, and Crosby Kemper, director of the federal Institute of Museum & Library Services.

designLAB Architects (dLAB) was the design architect on this project, whose other Building Team members included Bond Building Construction (GC), Ed Wojcik Architects, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (engineering), Fisher Dachs Associates, AWA Lighting Designers, KVA Associates, Rist-Frost-Shumway Engineering, Structures Workshop, The Queastor Group, and Wil-Spec.

The renovation adds more space for collaboration, teen socializing, and even quiet.


The library’s furniture and fixtures were provided by Casewerks, Steelcase, AIS, The Steel Yard, and W. B. Mason. Wayfinding is provided by Graphic Innovations, Malcolm Grear Designers, and Orion.

The renovation’s funding includes just under $9 million from the state, and private donations that include $1 million from Roselyn Sinclair and $750,000 from the Champlin Foundation.

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