The 10 Best Libraries in Rhode Island!

No matter if you’re searching for a place to study, a community event, or an after-school program for your child, the extraordinary libraries of Rhode Island have it. Aside from an enormous variety of books and historical archives, libraries cultivate a space for creative thinking, community engagement, and learning. Here are the 10 best libraries in Rhode Island.

1. The Providence Athenaeum, Providence, RI

This charming library on Benefit Street will make you feel like you’re in 19th century Providence. Stacks of book line every wall of this historical library, founded in 1836. Grab a desk up on the second floor for a perfectly secluded study spot, or head down to the basement reading room with your family to explore the children’s section. The Athenaeum also hosts several events throughout the month, such as regular lectures and sometimes even quiz nights.

2. RISD Library, Providence, RI

This former bank library has been renovated and made into a beautiful space that blends the contemporary and the historical, the artistic and the academic. Grab one of the little nooks in the middle of the library if you need to hunker down and study, or head to the back to the library to explore their volumes of books that explore everything from architecture and design to photography. On the second floor, you’ll find subscriptions to nearly 400 types of periodicals you won’t find anywhere else.

3. Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Newport, RI

This library has existed since before the American Revolution. Whether you’re reading or just touring, you’ll get a feel of Colonial America from the artifacts scattered throughout the library. Attend a talk with a docent to discover the rich historical history behind this beautiful library. This isn’t a public library, though—those over 18 must pay $10, but it’s worth the fee.

4. John Hay Library, Providence, RI

Owned by Brown University but open to the public, the John Hay Library boasts some of the Ocean State’s best collections of rare books. Included in those collections are H.P. Lovecraft’s letters, an extensive old stamp collection, and a book bound in human skin. And the architecture is as impressive as the collection. Make sure to stop by the Hay’s new reading room on a sunny day.

5. Cranston Public Library, Cranston, RI

More than a library, the Cranston Public Library’s William Hall branch is a community gathering space. In addition to its wide collection of books, CDs and DVDs, the library hosts a summer music series, all for free. The staff will make sure to help you find anything you need—don’t hesitate to ask!

6. Providence Public Library, Providence, RI

Located in downtown Providence, this public library is a beautiful space to do research or work. Head upstairs to explore recently-restored reading rooms. The staircase that takes you upstairs is as grand as the reading areas themselves. This is also the place to go if you’re hoping to go through Providence Journal microfilms or find historical perspectives on Rhode Island.

7. Warwick Public Library, Warwick, RI

This spacious library welcomes any and all Rhode Island residents. Study in one of their glass rooms for a small group work space, or nestle into one of their comfy chairs for a relaxing day of reading. This is a great place to spend the day getting work done. 

8. Island Free Library, Block Island, RI

Spend a rainy day hanging out at this public library. Bring kids to the children’s play area, or head to the basement to purchase books for just a few quarters at the library’s regular book sale. The library also contains plenty of Block Island memorabilia for residents looking to dive into their local history.

9. West Warwick Public Library, West Warwick, RI

This local library has plenty of events and exhibitions to keep you coming back month after month. Join the library’s book group to engage with other passionate readers, or stop by Food on the Move events, which bring fresh fruit markets straight to the library.

10. Knight Memorial Library, Providence, RI

Located in Providence’s Elmwood neighborhood, this neighborhood library is the perfect community gathering space. The 1924 structure, complete with Greek architectural elements, is the source of much of the neighborhood’s pride. After school, you’ll find students hanging out on the staircase, while inside various Elmwood residents are perusing the periodicals or finding a quiet space to read in the library’s 17,000 square-feet.

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