Just before his return to Providence from his sojourn in New York City, in discussing his threadbare finances, Lovecraft notes in a letter that his Providence library card is set to expire. He notes that his stacks card (presumably the card that grants him access to the library stacks, meaning the storeroom) for the library has already expired, but that the librarian…

   “good old William E. Foster has been tolerant of lapses before” (Lord of a Visible World, p.286)

The proximity to the discussion of money appears to suggest that a small annual fee was paid for membership of the public library?

There’s a detailed short biography of Lovecraft’s librarian heading the description of the William Eaton Foster Papers collection. It turns out that William Eaton Foster (1851-1930) was the driving force of the Providence Public Library from its inception, and a pioneer in many aspects of the modern library. He once even rivalled Dewey in devising a general classification system. The biography omits that he was also… “an admirer of the Roman poet Horace and collector of his works”, something which would have endeared him to Lovecraft-the-Roman. Foster retired February 1930, the same year as this photograph of him…


His book The first fifty years of the Providence public library, 1878-1928 is now available free online.