Rene Payne

Rene Payne

I was introduced to some of the current initiatives at PPL through PPL Board Member and friend Maria Goncalves. I have been actively connected to PPL recently through becoming a member of the PPL Conservator Society and as an active RISD alumni and Diversity Fellow (I completed the Fellowship last June) that has utilized the Library for extended resources connected to social equity and inclusion course initiatives.

I have recently started to support PPL, recognizing my own personal commitment in helping to advance the foundational social infrastructure that the Library offers as a cornerstone in the Providence community. It is meaningful to me because PPL offers so many viable opportunities and resources for people both physically and online. Many don’t even know so much exists at PPL. This COVID season has allowed me to explore some of the online resources like free e and audiobooks and PPL’s Learning Lounge Services offering individual remote sessions through phone, text, email and video conferencing on topics such as enhancing computer skills to connecting to community services and programs.

There are a number of things that I love about PPL. I love the fact that PPL is one of the public spaces in the Providence community where people of all ages, races, economic backgrounds, and interests can come together, have access to a wealth of information, and learn and exchange points of view in person or remotely.

One of my favorite things is the renovated Children’s Library where children can develop a sense of agency as they are able to select books and learn the responsibility of stewarding something borrowed and returned or enjoying an afternoon at PPL in such a bright and engaging environment.

I have enjoyed viewing the 2020 exhibition The King Is Dead* around journalism and fake news. The exhibition used historic print journalism to shed light on how and when people know what they know through the news. The exhibit was really well done. PPL’s private collections are also great. They offer a wealth of invaluable resources from tens of thousands of historic books, manuscripts, photographs, maps and artifacts.

I wish more people knew how deeply vested PPL and extended contributors have been in making the Library a safe and resourceful experience for the community through this COVID pandemic and beyond. I have been able to participate in a few events in support of PPL and recognize the village that it takes to uphold the stellar renovations that have been completed as well as providing so many important and viable resources for the Providence community. That has impressed me and has compelled me to want to give.

I have fond memories of trips to the library as a child with my late mother, Sylvia Watkins, and my two sisters. My mother helped develop the Pap smear for women and put her career aside for a time to raise three grounded African American daughters pioneering for change during the civil rights era. Once we all hit high school and adapted to the racial implications of being the “first” in several communities and school systems, she dedicated 18 years to empowering young women at Wellesley College. I think of how those trips to the library with my mother and sisters instilled culture and heritage in all of us through reading and picture books. My hope is that by contributing to PPL as a Conservator, I can honor the legacy of my beloved mother and honor what was instilled in me at a very early age; the importance of reading, culture, giving back to the community, and understanding the value of a library card.

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