Dale Thompson has retired after 25 years as executive director of the Providence Public Library. I make no comment on her accomplishments, except to note that over that span she – and the library’s board – oversaw the renovation of the library and the return of its entrance to its original main facade on Washington Street in the 1990s, and then, horror of horrors, a return, in 2005, back to the dull entrance on Empire Street used since the opening of a modernist addition, in 1954, that failed to live up to the 1900 original, designed by Stone, Carpenter & Willson.
This switch was designed to support the library’s phony claim of having created a new branch in the central branch, a bid for more city money (the library is private). The gambit failed, straining relations between the library, the city and the city-funded branches, which have since split off to form their own library system for the neighborhoods, taking the city money with them.
To add insult to injury, this past year, in a program ridiculously called “Opening Our Doors,” the library reopened its original entry on Washington – but only to the 1 percent, which was invited to lease the space for parties. I have no beef with renting out the library, but I do have a beef against not taking the opportunity to reopen the original entrance to the public as well.
The photos below attest to how the public has been ripped off by the library’s heroically flawed management in recent decades. The original facade is scarcely seen by the public, and the best interior spaces are off limits to the public. May the new director, Jack Martin, formerly of the New York Public Library, prove to be an improvement. Welcome to Providence.