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Looking at Some of South County's Public Libraries

Photograph of books stacked with the title of the blog written on the left of the books

When you live in South County, there's a good chance you'll want to visit a library from time to time, especially if you have children. The libraries here are more than just places to borrow books, as they act as central venues in local life, hosting events and gatherings nearly every day of the week.

Here are some of the more extensive libraries in South County, along with a bit of information on the history of the buildings they occupy.

Davisville Free Library

North Kingstown's Davisville neighborhood is home to the Davisville Free Library. Something is going on at this venue pretty much every day of the week, as they have book clubs, storytime, sing-alongs, craft nights, family game nights, and movie nights.

Once you sign up for an account through the library, you can even download ebooks and audiobooks for free through Ocean State Libraries.

The library itself dates back to 1917 when it was a reading room made up of donated books. The library received state funding a few years later, and the building was constructed soon after.

Cross' Mills Public Library

Cross' Mills Public Library is located along Old Post Road and is an integral part of everyday life in Charlestown. The building is more than a place to borrow books, as it hosts events and programs throughout the week for every age group.

On any given day, Cross' Mills Public Library has yoga, knitting, book discussion, cards, meditation, infant groups, and quilting, and all of the events are free to attend.

South Kingstown Public Library

Three locations make up the South Kingstown Public Library:

  • Peace Dale Library
  • Kingston Free Library
  • Robert Beverly Hale Library

All three buildings have a collection of print and electronic resources while offering study spaces, meeting rooms, and educational programs.

The Kingston Free Library is at the University of Rhode Island, while the Peace Dale Library is on Kingstown Road in the heart of the town. The Robert Beverly Hale Library is on the Commodore Perry Highway in the Perryville neighborhood.

These library buildings have significant histories, as well.

The Peace Dale Library sits in the Hazard Memorial Building, which dates back to 1891 when Rowland Hazard and John Newbold Hazard constructed it in memory of their father. The library initially occupied a single room in the building, which at that time was the center of town life and a local gathering place. Today, the library uses the entire renovated building.

The Kingston Free Library is in a building from 1775 that first served as a county courthouse. The General Assembly would also hold meetings there until 1791. In 1895, a new courthouse was built, and the building became a library and meeting hall. In 1959, the entire building was transferred to the Kingston Free Library Corporation, although the meeting hall remains.

The Robert Beverly Hale Library is the area's smallest, as it sits in a one-story building. The structure was built in 1896 in memory of Hale, the son of author Edward Everett Hale, and has always been a library.

North Kingstown Free Library

The North Kingstown Free Library now sits on Boone Street in Wickford Village, but that hasn't always been the case. The original library was on Brown Street, but damage from hurricanes, a lack of upkeep, and the need for a larger structure led to a new building opening in 1975.

The current library has over 100,000 titles and serves thousands of people each week. It also hosts events and has become a focal point of life in Wickford.

In addition to the books here, you can also research South County history, making it an excellent place to visit if you want to know more about the region's past.

Westerly Library

The Westerly Library might be South County's most famous because it is part of Wilcox Park. As the story goes, the library opened in 1894 in honor of soldiers who volunteered to fight in the Civil War. Local inventor Stephen Wilcox donated the land, as well as $25,000 towards its construction.

At that time, the building also has a gymnasium, art gallery, museum, meeting space, and bowling alley. Renovations would follow in the coming years to ensure that the venue could meet the needs of the community, including a significant interior alteration in 2010.

Today, you'll find nearly 200,000 items at the library, and it also hosts family storytimes, film clubs, game nights, writers' workshops, exhibits, and presentations throughout the week.

Unlike other libraries in South County, the Westerly Library is a private entity, so there isn't any government involvement whatsoever.

Maury Loontjens Memorial Library

In the Narragansett Pier neighborhood, just a couple of blocks from The Towers, you'll find the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library, also known as the Narragansett Public Library.

The first records of a library in Narragansett date back to 1896, although this was just a classroom in St. Peter's-by-the-Sea Church featuring books that residents could borrow. The books were eventually moved to the Old Town Hall on Boone Street, but it wasn't until 1961 that a dedicated library opened in the town.

Since 1961, the library has expanded numerous times, including the addition of the Genealogical Center in 1987 and a computer room in 1996.

In addition to taking out books, people meet at the venue multiple times per month for workshops, book clubs, storytimes, crafting, and a genealogy club.

Books and Events in South County

No matter where you live in South County, you'll have plenty of opportunities to borrow some books or join a club meeting at one of the local libraries. In fact, there's likely a library just a few minutes from your home, so get out there and take advantage of these local services that are available to all residents.

Published October 14, 2019 in Local Information, Exploring South County