PPL: Empire St. WingProvidence, Rhode Island

The leadership has stressed the importance of growing the Providence Public Library as an educational and cultural network or, as the director puts it, being the “City’s best partner” with other organizations and institutions in Rhode Island’s “Creative Capital”. With that in mind, the Library will overhaul 85,000-square feet in its expansive 1950’s wing, introducing new community learning venues such as state-of-the-art, flexible meeting, classroom and exhibition spaces. As part of planning, the collection is being extensively culled to net more seats and new user-centric, quiet-study spaces. There will also be a dedicated teen loft, expanded children’s library, and upgraded 300-seat auditorium. The special collections will be relocated and properly climate-controlled and supported by new public research and digital scanning facilities. In addition, the project will address required life safety systems upgrades, as well as make major infrastructure improvements, from the introduction of fresh air to implementing a robust network of power, data and lighting.

The organizing device within the new library plan is a new atrium at the literal and conceptual heart of the library. This new “hub” will not only improve circulation (today it’s twisted and confusing, at best) but also, and more importantly, will expose visitors to the full range of offerings. All the major resources will abut it like “tools on display” immediately upon entry. This welcoming gesture is meant to encourage social interactions among the more directed educational endeavors offered and supported by the Library and its program collaborators.