The Olneyville Free Library was established in 1875, the same decade in which Providence Public Library itself was formed. It operated out of an upstairs room at 12 Hartford Avenue and served several generations of mill workers. In 1890, the Olneyville Free Library was given land on the south side of Olneyville Square by Miss Sarah Waterman, with the stipulation that "it should build and maintain, 'within five years,' a brick building upon that property. . .and that the structure bear the Waterman name." When the building at 12-14 Olneyville Square was completed, the library occupied the second floor, with stores on the first floor. In 1920, the Olneyville library became a branch of PPL, with heat, light and janitorial service provided by the OFL and all other expenditures the responsibility of PPL. This article notes the following: "By a decree of the Rhode Island Superior Cout, permission has been granted for the transfer of the property of the Olneyville Free Library Association to the Providence Public Library Trustees. This took effect March 1st  and now the entire support of the Olneyville Branch (as it is now called) is supplied by the Providence Public Library. While PPL long envisioned building a new and modern home for the branch away from the congested Olneyville Square, this never transpired. Instead, in 1955, PPL remodeled the Waterman building, reducing it from four to two stories and providing the structure with a modern façade. The cost of the work was about $50,000, of which the City of Providence provided $20,000.
In 1981, the library was closed “for financial reasons,” and the building was sold four years later. In 1989, PPL bought the Hospital Trust Bank Building at 1 Olneyville Square, using $100,000 in federal grants to the City of Providence to do so. PPL planned to finance the “start-up of the Olneyville branch from the city’ $1.6 appropriation for library operations.” The Department of State Library Services and private groups contributed more than $40,000 to buy books and magazine subscriptions, and the Church of the Messiah provided an additional $1,000 for books on the day before the library opened in March of 1990. Nearly twenty-five years later, the library still remains at 1 Olneyville Square.