Downtown, across from an old stone church, Rhode Island’s Newport Public Library (NPL) is a long low two story modern brick building set in a large park. White projections cap the clerestory and complement the pale stucco entrance, as do the flanking trellises and planters. A pocket garden frames the handsome marble bar announcing their name and bushes, flowers and trees dot the property.
Nestled in a hill, it’s an interesting setup. Accessed from a large parking lot, the doorway on the opposing side is somewhat higher. Just a few steps lead from the foyer to the second level where the materials reside. Though probably energy efficient, this could have contributed to a costly and ill timed flood over Memorial Day weekend. Debris from a violent storm backed up a drain and they were still recovering from the inundation when I visited towards the end of July.
Back at the street front “cellar” entrance, despite patching and renovating operations, a Friends book sale was in full swing. Though they have a substantial store, with presentation shelves outside, it spills onto folding tables in the vestibule. CDs, records and choices for the little ones join the hardcovers and subjects are revealed by cheery handwritten placards on tall sticks. Five paperbacks for a dollar tempt vacationers while literary themed knickknacks add to the mood and framed art features pictures from the city and surrounding Atlantic. Hanging just under the ceiling, a big screen advertising current and upcoming attractions lures browsers upstairs.
Alongside this bibliophile’s bonanza, the basement is home to administration and employee quarters, comfort stations, vending machines, bulletin boards, a program enclosure, and meeting and board rooms.
And to my delight I came upon a portrait of Natalie Savage Carlson, author of one of my favorite childhood reads, The Empty Schoolhouse, who lived and died in the vicinity.
A glass and wood cabinet combining sailing and jazz volumes celebrates two of the municipality’s more obvious claims to fame – the Newport Jazz Festival and the America’s Cup.
Going up one flight I passed security gates to check in with friendly Kelly standing behind a verdant arrangement of seashells, sandcastles, potted plants and ivy at Circulation. After assuring him that I had permission (thanks for the help Kirby!) to take patronless photos, I scanned the premises, slightly in awe of the ample space for the collection.
A mounted television promotes free museum passes and a stand lets you inspect the 3M ebooks (plus NPL has Zinio and Overdrive). There are return slots for media and books too. Sadly, I also notice sign of the times bookmarks educating you on how to respond to an active shooter, but on a happier note, another handout lists weekly exercise classes. Zumba, Hatha Yoga, CrossFit, T’ai Chi and Boot Camp are just a sampling of the options.
Directly across from the entrance, the media zone is expansive. TV series have their own racks and they carry Blu-ray. It’s adjacent to a huge magazine area with plenty of seats, but I head towards YA, drawn by the welcoming cutout letters at its information desk.
Decorated for the Get in the Game… Read! summer reading program, Teens sports a manga and anime stack and a wide selection of new titles and audios. Six computers are provided and students get support from a homework console. Offerings include 3D Printing, Dinner & a Movie and sewing, cooking and crafting seminars.
Back in the grownup sections, unoccupied aisles are illuminated as you approach and I see graphic novels for adults and Spanish items. As elsewhere, fiction is conveniently categorized as romance, mystery… Pretty baskets contain beach books and a small reading spot has easy chairs overlooking the verdant landscape. Local history emphasizes the past with antique printer’s tools and old tomes and seafaring photos packed in an Asian influenced hutch.
Intriguing pale wood cases match the furnishings and market NPL’s latest acquisitions while in the seemingly endless corridor beacons shine on a neon green niche pushing large print and a second indentation of staff picks and biographies.
Admirably, hand sanitizer stands and recycling bins are abundant.
The Maker Lab Computer Room is dark but customers can sit on brightly hued plastic wheeled chairs at any of the twenty public internet terminals and wifi is free.
Saving the fun for last, I passed holds self pickup by kids’ music and CDs and went to the storytime enclave where purple paper wrapped tables let toddlers express themselves by a sink and toy and supply filled cupboards as they wait for a session or puppet show to begin on the colorful alphabet rug.
Sun streaming in from the lofty panes just below Children’s raised roof give it a light and airy ambiance. Racing flags draped from above herald the youth SRP On Your Mark, Get Set, Read! as do the golf bag, pennants, hula hoops, footballs, mini trophies, foam hockey sticks, NHL player cutouts and glittery spiraling sports memorabilia mobiles.
Kid’s has multi hued wavy stacks and geometric flooring. Two early literacy no internet computers preloaded with age appropriate software and games reassure parents and busy boxes engage tots, while six PCs attract adolescents. Outdoors, massive trunks bear sweeping branches that shade the red and yellow stools at the ledge halving the plate glass window or you can curl up in painted nooks embedded in the shelf wrapping around the walls.
Juveniles attend raptor encounters, math and Lego clubs, movies and guitar sing-a-longs and Pokemon and dance parties.
Topped by tiny cartoon faced hassocks, the marine motif is found here as well in a vivid carpet portraying a scene of varied creatures from the depths. Three spacious playhouses in primary tones accommodate a passel of youngsters and older ones can peer through attic openings. Board books are stowed in a diminutive version of these domiciles.
They are open six days a week and the website has Twitter, flickr, Pinterest, Instagram, and facebook accounts. Outreach is available for the ill, preschools and nursing facilities. Users get assistance in a variety of tech topics or chat on AskRI with the Providence PL reference department. Adults have travel slideshows, gardening, organizing and genealogy talks, films, a paranormal investigator’s supernatural evening, and crochet and book groups.
NPL is a great resource for surrounding communities, but all Little Rhody residents can use it via the Ocean State Libraries consortium, which lets you borrow and return almost all materials to any RI location and gives taxpayers more bang for the buck by sharing a catalog, telecommunications network, research databases…
In a fascinating state of bridges, islands, boats and water, water everywhere, Newport is the crown jewel – how lucky to also have such a gem of a library!