If you’ve had one too many existential crises in the Rock or are too perplexed by the bizarre pod couches in the SciLi to get any work done, there is a whimsical alternative hiding right down College Hill — the Providence Athenaeum.
The Providence Athenaeum (pronounced ath-uh-ney-um) is located on Benefit Street, a block down College Street past the Rock. The Athenaeum was preceded by two earlier libraries, the Providence Library Company, founded in 1753, and the city’s Athenaeum, founded in 1831. These two libraries joined their collections in 1836 to establish the Providence Athenaeum.
The Athenaeum continues to function today as a member-supported, independent library (you have to be a member to check out content, though there is a student library card rate), and is open to the public as a reading space, historical site, and a place for cultural events and programs. Renovations in 1978 added a children’s wing and the Philbrick Rare Book Room for the library’s special collections.
The stoic, Greek Revival building houses over 150,000 books, periodicals, movies, and other content. Perhaps reminiscent of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, accessible by a catwalk-like second floor, extend through the library, forming mysterious nooks and corners. Desks are hidden away within these alcoves, creating secluded study spaces. Below the library is a reading room with tables and seating.
If you’re tired of studying, spend some time wandering the creaky corridors and catwalks, browse the contemporary and historic collections (with works ranging from Faulkner and Dickinson to the modern classic Fifty Shades of Grey), flip through the old card catalog, or just enjoy the old-book smell that wafts through the library.
Only a short stroll from campus, the Providence Athenaeum is too close to not check out at least once. Whether you drop in for an afternoon of studying and exploring, or even just for that prime Insta opportunity (make sure to caption it with #libraryporn, #nerdalert, and/or #imquirky), the Providence Athenaeum is a great addition to any study spot rotation!
The Athenaeum is open from 9a.m.–7p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9a.m.–5p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1p.m.–5p.m. Sundays.
Image via Kenji Endo ’18.