Archives in the Time of COVID-19

Hello, loyal blog readers. We wish that, right now, we were posting under normal circumstances to impendingly welcome you back into our newly-renovated library and enthusing about a soon-to-open exhibition, but alas, that’s not the case given the current COVID-19 situation in the U.S. However, we do have an update on library services and Special Collections access during our closure, as well as some information about where we left off our reopening preparations (with photos near the bottom of this post):

First, as you likely know, Providence Public Library has wisely postponed the date when we will re-open to the public; if you didn’t receive the library’s email announcement, you can find it here. You can also check our website for updates about virtual library services and announcements about our rescheduled opening. (To answer your most pressing questions: no, you don’t need to return your books right now, nor will they incur overdue fines until we re-open; and yes, you can apply for a temporary library card online if you don’t have one and want to access the library’s e-books and other digital services.)

Second, all members of our Special Collections staff are currently working from home. That means that we’re available by email but not by phone, and we don’t have access to our physical collections at the moment. We do have a number of virtual services available:

  • First, please avail yourselves of the plethora of images available through ProvLibDigital. They’re free to download, and could make great additions to online curricula, research projects, or creative projects.
  • We can offer some virtual instruction or reference services: do you want us to offer an online session for your class on how to do primary source research? Have questions about your genealogy research? Need some ideas for your history class? Please get in touch; we’d love to work with you.
  • We’re working to put together additional resources that will be available through our website, such as subject guides to common research topics, ideas for teachers and professors to integrate primary sources and historical materials into their virtual curricula, and information about preserving family history. Stay tuned!

Now, for some pictures and construction/ exhibit updates:

Up until mid-March, we were frantically preparing for the library’s grand re-opening. While construction continued outside our new office doors, we received new furniture for our Special Collections Reading Room, including a bank of lockers for researchers’ personal belongings, new tables and chairs, and an official-looking desk for the librarian monitoring the room. We don’t have pictures to share just yet, so you can act very surprised when you finally sit in our new chairs.

We also got VERY exciting new cases for our VERY exciting new exhibition gallery. The cases were manufactured in Germany and journeyed across the Atlantic on a cargo ship. They arrived via delivery truck on a rainy day in wooden packing crates, having crossed the miles relatively unscathed.

(Don’t worry, we got a replacement for this single broken glass shelf.)

Look at the cool Drop (N) Tell Impact Indicator on the side of the shipping crate that tattles on laissez-faire crate handlers:

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Here are a few of the cases set up in the new gallery:

Exhibit gallery

In early March, we started building custom book supports for our annual exhibition and program series. Here are some poorly-lit pictures of Angela doing math, and of freshly-made supports inside our new cases.

We’re still planning to have the exhibit completed whenever the library re-opens to the public; in the meantime, keep an eye here and on our other social media for posts highlighting Special Collections materials, and even a few exhibit sneak-peeks.

We sincerely hope you’re all staying safe and healthy and feeling supported and connected to one another.

Creative Fellowship update

Today’s blog post is an update from our 2020 Creative Fellow, Kelly Eriksen, who’s been making a deep dive into our Special Collections and planning out a sound installation for the spring.

“Last week I got to go on a really exciting hard hat tour of the Providence Public Library renovations.”

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“The tour was a great opportunity to move through the old/new space and to gain an understanding of how the public will eventually use it.”

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“Starting to get clearer and clearer ideas for installation. More details to come!”

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“Big thanks to Aaron Peterman for giving a great tour and answering all of my (so many) questions!”

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Thanks, Kelly! Stay tuned to see what she’s up to in the new year!

Reminder and Researchers

A quick reminder: applications for our 2020 Creative Fellowship are due this coming Tuesday, October 1st.

Now that you’ve been reminded, we’re excited to tell you that Special Collections materials are (mostly) moved into their new homes in our renovated, climate-controlled stacks!!! (The news is exciting enough to merit some rule-breaking punctuation.) We have twelve fancy air conditioning units that control and monitor temperature, air distribution, and humidity, keeping our books happy and stable.

Now that we’ve moved, we’re able to take classes and researchers on a limited basis (due to space considerations during the ongoing renovation). Get in touch if you’d like to make an appointment!

Moving Our Special Collections

We’ve been in FULL SWING with the first phase of moving our collections into their new, climate-controlled stacks. It’s involved copious sweat, a few tears, and minimal blood, but our art and architecture folios are now on designated shelving, and our Rhode Island collections are settling into their new homes.

book moving

We couldn’t have done it without tireless and meticulous help from a fantastic team from William B. Meyer. Phase two of our moving will begin in a couple of weeks – stay tuned for updates!

book moving 2

Renovation Update and a Giant Bat

“Hey, Special Collections Librarians,” we can hear you thinking, “where have you been?”

Renovation has been kicking into high gear over here at the Providence Public Library.

Renovation stairwell

Workers create an open stairwell through the building’s many floors.

We’ve been cleaning and packing materials in preparation for our move into newly-renovated, climate-controlled stacks. We’ve vacuumed many of our books with a special HEPA vacuum to clean them before they’re loaded onto carts, and we’ve been setting shelves to hold our materials in their new space. Delicate items are getting wrapped, and Jordan has been making a Herculean effort to track every book’s current and future location through color-coded spreadsheets and maps. Everything is topsy-turvy (but in a collections-preserving manner, don’t worry).

Renovation

Part of this space will eventually be our new exhibition gallery.

We’re not taking research requests or appointments at the moment, as most of our collections are inaccessible. We’re hoping to have completed the move by late July or August; we’ll post an update on this blog and on our social media once we’re taking new reference questions and research appointments. In the meantime, you can always check the PPL website for updates about the building transformation, or visit our colleagues at the Rhode Island State Archives, Providence City Archives, Rhode Island Historical Society, and other awesome local institutions for all of your research needs.

To tide you over for the next month or two, here’s an exciting illustration of a giant bat soaring above a cathedral (taken from a children’s book about animals called On Four Feet):

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PPL Renovation: It’s Here!

Those of you who follow us on Facebook or Twitter have already heard, but for blog-reading purists: PPL is beginning a major building renovation this week! We’re excited for all the changes this will bring, and the ways in which it will improve how we serve the public.

The 12-18 month renovation will affect our general circulation, as well as access to Special Collections. Notably: we are no longer holding weekly open hours, but Special Collections is still open to researchers by appointment. This Building Transformation page on the PPL website will have up-to-date information throughout the renovation. (It also has cool architect’s renderings of the new space.)