Providence Public Library Planning Transforming Renovation of its Downtown Building

Major improvements a centerpiece of PPL’s vision and strategic goals for achieving 21st-century library services for Providence and Rhode Island residents

Providence Public Library (PPL) is planning to undertake the state’s largest-ever library renovation beginning later this year.  The project will address required life safety systems upgrades, as well as make major infrastructure improvements to PPL’s downtown buildings. The approximately 85,000-square foot project will transform the Library’s 1950s wing, auditorium, and special collection areas to provide 21st-century library services for Providence and Rhode Island residents.

Pending final approvals, the planned renovations of PPL’s downtown building include:

  • Complete implementation of required life safety systems: fire alarm and fire protection per an approved implementation plan, in addition to major infrastructure, technology and HVAC upgrades throughout the facility
  • Repurposed and better utilized spaces throughout the building, including providing expanded community learning venues with state-of-the-art, flexible meeting, classroom and exhibition spaces, as well as increased user-centric, quiet-study spaces
  • Improved overall visitor experience through clearer circulation and a more welcoming and visible entry by way of a new, spacious atrium and open, multi-level stairway
  • Upgraded and improved information/resource access and service points for all library users
  • A new maker space education lab for hands-on learning and creating
  • Expanded, dedicated teen space and updated Children’s Library
  • Improved/expanded computing resources throughout
  • Improved/expanded PPL’s Special Collections suite, including storage, research and digital preservation facilities, as well as appropriate interior environment for such
  • Upgraded 300-seat Auditorium, including making it fully handicap accessible
  • Exterior upgrades and window improvements to increase visibility into and out of the building

“This renovation plan and the improvements to be made to the Library’s primary service areas are a centerpiece of our ongoing “Think Again” Strategic Plan for re-imagining and transforming our library.  With these upgrades and modernization of these 60-plus year-old buildings, we will better be able to deliver the programs and services we’ve outlined to meet the evolving needs of our diverse community of library users in Providence and statewide,” said Jack Martin, PPL Executive Director.

“This project is consistent with PPL’s long-standing commitment to provide Rhode Island residents with high-quality, high-impact services and experiences while welcoming all to explore, learn, and achieve their goals,” said Robert Taylor, PPL Board Chair.

The project is scheduled to begin this year and take place in stages over approximately 18 months. The estimated project costs are expected in early May.  The Library is undertaking a capital campaign to fund the project. Additional support is expected from the Rhode Island Public Library Construction Reimbursement program. 

The Library will remain open throughout the renovations; however, onsite services and access to PPL’s circulating collection will be limited.  The Library will use nearby facilities of its community partners for programs, and will continue to be an access point for ordering, picking up and dropping off materials from libraries throughout Rhode Island.

Specific plans will be announced in the coming weeks.

designLAB architects, of Boston, Mass.,  is the architect of record, responsible for all activities as part of one construction project. designLAB also served as the architect in PPL’s 2013 renovation.

PPL is an independent, non-profit organization founded in 1875, governed by a Board of Trustees, and supported primarily through private funding sources, including its own PPL Foundation.  PPL provides services and resources to more than 152,000 visitors annually.  The Library also serves as the Statewide Reference Resource Center holding unique collections and resources.

PPL’s Mission and Vision

PPL engages learners, inspires thinkers and connects diverse communities.

PPL is a library re-imagined. Our library is a place where tradition and innovation intersect -- serving as an open and collaborative center of teaching and learning where communities can connect, experience, create and achieve.  Approachable and inclusive, PPL is committed to making a meaningful difference in the lives of Rhode Islanders and everyone we serve.