Throughout its long history, the Providence Athenæum has been uniquely welcoming to children.
Since 1838, children have been invited to share in the library experience. During his speech at the opening of the Athenæum on July 11, 1838, Brown President Francis Wayland remarked, “The chaste and beautiful edifice with which it has adorned our city is finally finished. The literary treasures, which, with so much spirit and judgement it has collected, have now found a permanent resting place. Its doors have been, today, for the first time, thrown open, and every arrangement has been perfected, by which you and your children may have access to it.”
In 1912, the Athenæum commissioned architect Norman Morrison Isham, whose wife was a member of the Athenæum, to design an addition on the south side of the building to provide more space for the collection, and, most importantly, to create the Athenæum’s first children’s room where the Reference Desk sits now. The library recognized that children need a space of their own and continued to expand children’s services throughout the early twentieth century, including weekly story hours.
Continuing and building on the Athenæum’s desire to serve children, our beloved Sayles Gorham Children’s Library was completed in 1979 as part of the award-winning three-story addition designed by Warren Platner. Since that time hundreds of children have grown up with books in this cozy space designed just for them.