The Jamestown Philomenian Library

Our History

The Jamestown Philomenian Library (JPL) originated in 1828 with the organization of The Philomenian Debating Society whose members agreed to pay one dollar a year toward a fund to start a library.  That library and another lending library on Conanicut Island were combined in November 1874 to create the JPL.  The library moved from private homes, first to the back of the town hall, and then to an empty school.  In 1971, a building to house the library was constructed on the present site.  In 1993, a $1.4 million addition was erected to house our collection and included the addition of a Children’s Room and an auditorium, which seats 125 people.  The auditorium was used as the Town Council Chambers for quite some time.

Fast Forward 27 Years

Our library has evolved into an institution that meets a spectrum of community needs – from children’s programs, lectures and classes, to community forums, senior programs, movies, and so much more.

The JPL anchors a vibrant section of the village along with the newly revitalized playground, the Jamestown Art Center, the Village Hearth Bakery, the Post Office, McQuade’s grocery store, Town Hall, and the Lawn and Melrose schools.

Library usage has risen dramatically.  We’re proud to report that the JPL:

  • ranks second highest in visits per capita in Rhode Island;
  • circulates more than 91,000 items each year;
  • has the second highest circulation per capita in Rhode Island;
  • offers internet access for over 6,700 user hours per year;
  • reached over 4,600 school kids last year;
  • has 4,000 people taking part in its adult programs annually;
  • accommodated patrons over 3,700 times in our meeting spaces;
  • enjoys over 70% of Jamestown’s residents as library card holders; and
  • provides all of its programs free and open to the public.

The JPL of the Future

27 years ago, the JPL couldn’t have imagined the central role it would play in the future of our community.  We have not only outgrown our current (and tired) space, but how that space is used has also dramatically shifted.

To address the changing nature of its role in the community and the increased demand for its various services, the library’s trustees conducted a comprehensive survey of our user’s needs, wants and expectations. They next commissioned the development of a comprehensive architectural plan for renovations, along with much needed maintenance due to wear and tear to meet its community’s vision.

A few highlights of the new plan include:

  • The creation of an interior that is specifically zoned for each user group, with separate areas for congregating and areas for quiet;
  • Expansion of staff workspace to process the vast amount of materials that flow through without spilling over into user areas;
  • Design elements that reduces noise levels throughout;
  • Space for our growing cadre of volunteers; and
  • A specially designated restroom just for children.