Hidden PVD

Notes from the Underground

The Russian Room in Rochambeau Library is mysterious, but also a great place to quietly work


Deep inside Rochambeau Library, there is a small and stately room packed with books. A large table stands in the center, and the windows offer generous views of the stacks beyond. But you may do a double-take: all the books here are covered in Cyrillic writing – hence its nickname, The Russian Room.

The exact origins of The Russian Room are unclear, but the space used to contain reference books, such as atlases and almanacs. Then, in the 1980s, a wave of Soviet immigrants arrived in Providence, thanks to the Perestroika thaw. Although no one can remember exactly when or how, the librarians recall a period of book donations and local advocacy, and The Russian Room was born.

Today, this little antechamber is the quietest corner of the library. Rochambeau doesn’t have an official study room, but patrons are often referred to The Russian Room because they can close the heavy wood-and-glass door. There, you will find hundreds of volumes, their spines printed with elegant Slavic fonts. If you don’t speak the language, you’ll struggle to read a single word, or even a title. But if you’re looking for something to pore over, there’s a stack of glossy magazines with plenty of pictures.