Resources for Artists

PPL’s collections are full of useful materials for artists and designers, from how-to books that you can check out with your library card to historical collections that you can use on-site. We also have online databases, a makerspace with classes and tools, a piano practice room, and a tool library. 

Our Collections

Our Special Collections have historical and one-of-a-kind items that can serve as inspiration, information, and source material: illustrated children’s books, woodcuts, handwritten letters, old newspapers, type specimens, historic magazines, etchings, photographs, scrimshaw, broadsides, and much more. These materials can be used in our Reading Room, and you’re welcome to take notes, make sketches, and take photographs. Many (but not all!) of our historic materials appear in PPL’s online catalog or in descriptive finding aids, but often, the best way to find what you’re looking for is to get in touch or stop by during our Special Collections open hours.

Our general collections are also full of illustrated books, how-to guides, books of photography, art history, music scores and songbooks, magazines, and more -- and with your library card, you can check out most of these, and even request titles from other public libraries throughout Rhode Island. Visit the Info Services desk to get help finding books, signing up for a library card, requesting books from other libraries, or using online databases.


Special Collections

Phone: 401-455-8021

A Guide To Archives For Artists and Makers

Lizard Ramone in Hot Pursuit

Lizard Ramone in Hot Pursuit is a comic book conceived of and printed by Providence Public Library in Providence, RI, working in collaboration with artist Jeremy Ferris, who created the storyline, illustrations, and text.

Providence describes itself as the “Creative Capital,” and we work with a great number of artists and designers at PPL. Many of our creative researchers (and researchers in general) are intimidated by the process of finding things in our Special Collections. Archives have their own vocabularies and rules, and it can be a scary world for the uninitiated. This comic book was developed as a guide to demystify archival research for artists and other makers. We wanted it to be specific enough that it could help our users, but general enough to be applicable to collections across the country.

Librarians and archivists enjoy helping people and want their collections to be more accessible, but don’t always know how to reach or work with creative researchers. We’re hoping that this comic book can be a bridge helping artists and archivists to find each other and get down to the fun and messy work of research!

Research Assistance

Our librarians can help you find personalized resources, whether you’re looking for a specific piece of information or seeking an immersive research experience! You don’t need to have a library card to get research assistance, and it’s okay if you only have a vague idea of what you’re looking for. We have librarians with deep knowledge of our arts materials and visual resources, and they’re happy to help. 

If you’re looking for information on a specific topic, a reference librarian can help you navigate our materials and find applicable articles, books, images, music, DVDs, and online resources; they also can direct you to materials of interest at other libraries or museums. Just stop by the Information Services desk or give us a call whenever the library is open. 

If you’re interested in historic materials, visit Special Collections during our weekly open hours or make an appointment. We can help with both general inquiries (i.e. “I’m writing a book and need to know what life was like in mill villages” and more specific ones (i.e. “I’m looking for woodcut illustrations of dogs”).

Creative or visual research can be slow, in part because materials have traditionally been cataloged to facilitate topic-based research. Your keys to success are to give yourself plenty of time and to talk to librarians who know the collections well!

Tools and Instruments

PPL’s Makerspace offers classes, drop-in hours, and tools like sewing machines and a laser cutter. The Makerspace is located just inside the library’s entrance on Empire Street.

PPL also has a piano practice room and the PVD Things Tool Library - librarians at the Information Services desk can tell you more about either of these.

Self-employed artists may also be interested in classes and resources available through the Library’s Small Business Hub.