The Athenæum is replacing its heating system. The project will start May 6 and continue though early August. The library will be closed to the public during this time. Members, see details below for services, access, and more information.
On May 31st, the library’s Main Level will reopen to members for limited browsing, Tuesdays – Fridays, 12-6pm and Saturdays, 10am-6pm. We are now on summer hours, and so are closed on Sundays.
The Main Level will reopen to members only for limited browsing on Wednesday, May 31st. Members can visit to browse new books, fiction, mystery, DVDs & audiobooks, and materials in the Children’s Library. The mezzanine and Reading Room remain closed, and there will be no restroom or study space access. Materials can be checked in and out in the Children’s Library. Please use the back entrance off College Street.
Curbside pickup remains available during open hours. Simply call the library to reserve materials* or leave a message (401-421-6970). Materials can be returned at any time in the book drop by the Circulation/College Street entrance.
Please use caution if you visit. Work is still going on inside the building (mostly during the early morning), and it will continue through much of the summer. This is a big job, and while the team has been keeping the library as clean as possible, the Athenæum is a little dusty and cluttered. It may also be noisy at times. Floor protection is still in place. No dogs are allowed in the building right now for safety (we’ll miss our canine friends!).
Our beloved mailbox-style bookdrop has moved about 25 feet closer to College Street as we prepare to enclose the metal vestibule in glass.
Offsite membership benefits
*Excludes student membership level | **Household, Individual, & Individual Under 35 levels only
*To browse new materials in the collection from home, check out these lists in the catalog:
New Fiction – titles are listed by author’s last name
New Mystery – titles are listed by author’s last name
New Biography – titles are listed by call number
New Children’s Books – titles are listed by call number
New DVDs – titles are listed by author’s last name
The library is now closed to non-members until the heating replacement project is completed in August. We hope to see you then!
March 23, 2023
Many of you may know that we have been planning to replace the Athenæum’s failing heating system for several years now. The heating system at the library is a critical threat, and it is in a state of failure. The pipes (150 years old) are failing. The boiler (50+ years old) is failing, and we’ve only managed to make it through this heating season due to numerous expensive interventions. We’ve been extremely fortunate to have experienced a mild winter.
As you can imagine, replacing the heating system of a historically significant building like the Athenaeum is not a simple lift. This has been an involved process that has included teams of engineers, conservators, architects, and preservation experts. We’ve raised nearly a million dollars to finance the largest infrastructure project the library has embarked on in decades. The replacement of the heating system is identified as the most urgent priority in our ambitious Master Plan, and we’re grateful for the countless hours our dedicated board members have donated to make this project possible.
This is an exciting and critical preservation project we’re undertaking, and while it may cause some short-term inconvenience, it guarantees that members and library visitors will be comfortable for at least another generation. The new system will be far more efficient, and it will allow us to zone the heat – something we have never been able to do before. Once the project is complete, members will not notice any physical changes inside the library itself. The most visible element of the project will be the vestibule off the back entrance, which will be encased in glass to prevent heating loss.
It is impossible to foresee all the difficulties we may experience once we begin this work. We have an informed work plan, but that plan will be impacted by what contractors discover once they begin the actual work. I have been involved with many projects here now, and, as you might imagine with a 185-year-old building, none of them have gone exactly as anticipated. We will send out periodic updates over email, and we’ll do our best to keep you informed throughout the process.
The project will begin on May 6th and will continue through the beginning of August. During this period, we will not be open to the general public, and we will endeavor to provide as much service as we can to members. In May, the building will be closed, but curbside pickup of materials will be available to members and the RISD community on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-5pm. Reading groups will meet as scheduled, but offsite. In June and July, we will gradually expand services and building access, with the intention of reopening the building in the afternoons. By mid-July, we’re hoping to return to quasi-normal operations. By August, things should be back to normal.
We appreciate your patience and flexibility this summer, and in acknowledgment of the disruption, are extending your membership by one month. I hope that next winter, we can send out a similar message to one included in the Athenæum Bulletin of December, 1943; “The friendly welcome which the Athenæum always holds out to its shareholders is particularly grateful as winter moves into town this year. Our heating is efficient, and you will find the library pleasantly warm, within patriotic limits. Should your own hearth be cooler than usual this winter, why not do more of your reading in the Athenæum? The reading room holds especial attractions in both material and comfort.”
Heating System Replacement Project Summary