For those readers who prefer flipping through pages to scrolling down on a screen, downtown Providence has plenty of books and magazines to devour. Start just east of downtown on historic Benefit Street, and end your walk less than a mile away at the Providence Public Library Central Branch.
1. Providence Athenaeum: 251 Benefit Street. (401) 421-6970
The Providence Athenaeum is an independent membership library and cultural center that has been in its current location since 1838. It’s an incredible resource for Providence! The public is invited to browse the collections and attend events, but those who wish to check out materials are encouraged to become members.
2. RISD Fleet Library: 15 Westminster Street. (401) 709-5900.
From the Athenaeum, walk west on College Street down the hill into downtown. Cross Memorial Boulevard, and find the magnificent RISD Fleet Library on the ground floor in the Mandle Building. As a visitor, you’ll have to sign in and show a photo ID at the security desk, but it’s well worth it. With more than 145,000 volumes and 380 periodical subscriptions, you’ll find everything you’d ever want to know about architecture, art, design and photography.
3. Symposium Books: 240 Westminster. (401) 273-7900
Continue walking west on Westminster Street for about 5 minutes. On a sunny weekend day, you’re likely to stumble upon outdoor racks of books for sale in front of Symposium, luring you inside. Set in the heart of the Downcity shopping district, you’ll have no problem finding a coffee shop where you can comfortably relax with your new books.
4. Cellar Stories Books: 111 Mathewson. (401) 521-2665
From Symposium Books, continue west for another block on Westminster, and turn right onto Mathewson Street in front of The Hotel Providence. Mid-block, you’ll find the entrance to Cellar Stories Books. (It’s actually upstairs on the second floor, and not in a basement at all). As the largest used and rare bookstore in Rhode Island, with 60,000 volumes, Cellar Stories offers a surprisingly wide range of subjects at bargain prices.
5. Providence Public Library: 150 Empire Street. (401) 455-8000
From Cellar Stories, walk to Washington Street, turn left, and continue for 3 blocks. The library is on the northwest corner of Washington and Empire streets, directly across from Trinity Rep. The beautiful Renaissance building is home to a variety of programs from early childhood literacy to workforce development. PPL is a member of the Ocean State Libraries system which links more than 50 libraries across the state, and library cards are FREE! If you’re interested in joining a book club or finding staff recommendations, check out the library’s list of book lovers’ resources.