Free Library of Philadelphia
|Items collected||Edwin A. Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music
Print and Picture Collection (largest in the U.S.A)
|Access and use|
|Director||Siobhan A. Reardon|
The Free Library of Philadelphia is the public library system that serves Philadelphia. It is the tenth-largest public library system in the United States. Unique among public libraries in the United States, it is neither a city agency or nonprofit organization; instead, it is governed by both an independent city agency managed by its own board of directors and a separate nonprofit organization, The Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation.
In fiscal 2012, the Free Library hosted 6 million in-person and 9 million online visits.
The Free Library of Philadelphia was chartered in 1891 as "a general library which shall be free to all," through efforts led by Dr. William Pepper, who secured initial funding through a $225,000 bequest from his wealthy uncle, George S. Pepper. However, several libraries claimed the bequest, and only after the courts decided the money was intended to found a new public library did the Free Library finally open in March 1894. Its first location was three cramped rooms in City Hall. On February 11, 1895, the Library was moved to the old Concert Hall at 1217-1221 Chestnut Street. Library officials criticized their new home as "an entirely unsuitable building, where its work is done in unsafe, unsanitary and overcrowded quarters, temporary make-shifts." In December 1, 1910, the Library was moved again, to the northeast corner of 13th and Locust Streets.
Parkway Central Library
On June 2, 1927, the Parkway Central Library opened for service at its present location at 1901 Vine Street on Logan Square. The building had been in planning since 1911; various obstacles, including World War I, held up progress. Construction began in 1917 from a 1908 design by Horace Trumbauer in the Classical Revival style, probably influenced by recent trips to France by the African American architect Julian Abele, the chief designer of Trumbauer's firm. In addition to being the main library, the building serves as the system's administrative headquarters.
The mission of the Free Library of Philadelphia is to advance literacy, guide learning, and inspire curiosity.
In addition to its vast amount of physical and virtual resources, the Free Library of Philadelphia hosts about 25,000 programs annually, including job-search workshops, small business programming, English as a Second Language conversation groups, and computer classes. The Library hosts a renowned Author Events Series, which brings more than 100 writers to the Free Library annually; the city-wide One Book-One Philadelphia program; the Summer Reading program, which engages some 50,000 Philadelphia school children each summer; the Literacy Enrichment After-school Program (LEAP); and the Philadelphia Book Festival.
The Free Library aims to provide literacy, learning, and economic recovery for the city of Philadelphia though its unparalleled access and training in the digital space. By providing access to more than 80,000 ebooks; 1,000 public computers; 600+ author event podcasts; 150 online databases; daily homework and computer literacy classes online; Hot Spot community computer training centers; and the roving Techmobile “Hot Spot on wheels,” the Free Library’s digital services have never been greater.
Hot Spots initiative
In the March of 2011, the library launched Free Library Hot Spots, placing new computer labs and computer trainers in existing community centers in low-income areas of the city. The initiative is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. Each Hot Spot provides computers, internet access, printers, and a small selection of Free Library materials. The library had 950 public-access computers and free WiFi available throughout the Free Library's 54-branch system before the Free Hot Spot launch, and continues to maintain those public-access computers in addition to the Hot Spots. In April of 2012 the Free Library also celebrated the launch of The Techmobile, a Hot Spot on Wheels, that brings service to neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia.
According to a recent study conducted by the Penn’s Fels Institute of Government, in 2010, nearly 25,000 people learned to read or taught someone else to read solely because of the resources of the Free Library. In addition, nearly 1,000 individuals found jobs based on the career resources of the Free Library, and some 8,600 entrepreneurs were able to start, grow or improve their small businesses because of programs and resources available free of charge at the Library.
The Free Library of Philadelphia houses several rare and unique special collections. The Rare Book Department at Parkway Central Library features one of the world’s most renowned Charles Dickens collections, featuring first editions, personal letters, and Dickens’s stuffed pet raven Grip, as well as the largest Beatrix Potter collection outside of the United Kingdom. The Department also houses robust collections of cuneiform tablets, medieval and Oriental manuscripts, and Pennsylvania German fraktur.
In addition to the collections housed in the Rare Book Department, the Free Library also features the Edwin A. Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music, which is the largest lending library of orchestral performance sets in the world. The Library’s Automobile Reference Collection is one of the most extensive public resources of its kind, and the Print and Picture Collection houses roughly half-a-million circulating pictures in the largest public picture lending library in the nation, in addition to thousands of fine art prints, drawings, and photographs. The Free Library also has an extensive special collection devoted to maps.
Many of the items in the Free Library of Philadelphia’s special collections have been digitized and can be viewed online.
Besides the Parkway Central Library in downtown Philadelphia, the system also operates 53 neighborhood library locations in the city's many neighborhoods.
Many of these libraries were funded by Andrew Carnegie, who donated US$1.5 million to the library in 1903. The Bushrod Library was also established in 1903 through a bequest by Dr. Bushrod James.
|#||Name||Address||Zip Code||Phone||Neighborhood(s) Served|
|||Andorra||705 East Cathedral Road||19128-2106||215-685-2552||Andorra and Upper Roxborough|
|||Blanche A. Nixon||5800 Cobbs Creek Parkway||19143-3036||215-685-1973||Cobbs Creek|
|||Bushrod||6304 Castor Avenue||19149-2731||215-685-1471||Oxford Circle, Castor Gardens, Upper Northwood, Summerdale, and the Lower Northeast|
|||Bustleton||10199 Bustleton Avenue||19116-3718||215-685-0472||Bustleton and Somerton|
|||Cecil B. Moore||2320 Cecil B. Moore Avenue||19121-2927||215-685-2766||North Central, Strawberry Mansion, Brewerytown, Sharswood, and the Johnson Homes|
|||Central Library||1901 Vine Street||19103||215-686-5322||-|
|||Charles L. Durham||3320 Haverford Avenue||19104-2021||215-685-7436||Mantua and Powelton|
|||Charles Santore||932 South 7th Street||19147-2932||215-686-1766||Bella Vista, Queen Village, and Hawthorne|
|||Chestnut Hill||8711 Germantown Avenue||19118-2716||215- 685-9290||-|
|||David Cohen Ogontz||6017 Ogontz Avenue||19141||215-685-3566||Ogontz and Belfield|
|||Eastwick||2851 Island Avenue||19153-2314||215-685-4170||Eastwick, Elmwood, Clearview, and Penrose Park|
|||Falls of Schuylkill||3501 Midvale Avenue||19129-1633||215-685-2093||East Falls|
|||Fishtown||1217 East Montgomery Avenue||19125-3445||215-685-9990||Fishtown and New Kensington|
|||Fox Chase||501 Rhawn Street||19111-2504||215-685-0547||-|
|||Frankford||4634 Frankford Avenue||19124-5804||215-685-1473||Frankford, Northwood, Bridesburg, and part of Juniata Park|
|||Fumo Family||2437 South Broad Street||19148-3508||215-685-1758||-|
|||Greater Olney||5501 North 5th Street||19120-2805||215-685-2846||Olney|
|||Haddington||446 North 65th Street||19151-4003||215-685-1970||Haddington-Carroll Park and Overbrook-Morris Park|
|||Haverford||5543 Haverford Avenue||19139-1432||215-685-1964||Haddington-Carroll Park|
|||Holmesburg||7810 Frankford Avenue||19136-3013||215-685-8756||-|
|||Independence||18 S. 7th Street||19106||215-685-1633||Society Hill, Old City, Queen Village, Washington Square West, and Chinatown|
|||Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library||68 West Chelten Avenue||19144-2795||215-685-2150||Germantown|
|||Katharine Drexel||11099 Knights Road||19154-3516||215-685-9383||Normandy, North and West Torresdale, Morrell Park, Millbrook, Parkwood, Crestmont Farms, Brookhaven, and Walton Park|
|||Kensington||104 West Dauphin Street||19133-3701||215-685-9996||Kensington, West Kensington, and Norris Square|
|||Kingsessing||1201 South 51st Street||19143-4353||215-685-2690||Kingsessing|
|||Lawncrest||6098 Rising Sun Avenue||19111-6009||215-685-0549||Lawndale, Crescentville, Lawncrest, and Cedar Grove|
|||Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped||919 Walnut Street||19107||215-683-3213||-|
|||Lillian Marrero||601 West Lehigh Avenue||19133-2228||215-685-9794||Central North, Fairhill, St. Edwards/Hartranft, and West Kensington|
|||Logan||1333 Wagner Avenue||19141-2916||215-685-9156||Logan|
|||Lovett||6945 Germantown Avenue||19119-2189||215-685-2095||East and West Mt. Airy|
|||Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library||125 South 52nd Street||19139-3408||215-685-7433||Cedar Park, Walnut Hill, West Market, Mill Creek, Dunlap, and West Park|
|||McPherson Square||601 East Indiana Avenue||19134-3042||215-685-9995||Kensington, McPherson Square, and K & A|
|||Nicetown-Tioga||3720 North Broad Street||19140-3608||215-685-9790||Nicetown and Tioga|
|||Northeast Regional Library||2228 Cottman Avenue||19149-1297||215-685-0522||Greater Northeast|
|||Oak Lane||6614 North 12th Street||19126-3299||215-685-2848||Oak Lane|
|||Overbrook Park||7422 Haverford Avenue||19151-2995||215-685-0182||Overbrook Park|
|||Paschalville||6942 Woodland Avenue||19142-1823||215-685-2662||Paschalville and Elmwood|
|||Philadelphia City Institute||1905 Locust Street||19103-5730||215-685-6621||Rittenhouse Square and Fitler Square|
|||Queen Memorial Library||1201 South 23rd Street||19146-4316||215-685-1899||Landreth|
|||Ramonita de Rodriguez||600 West Girard Avenue||19123-1311||215-686-1768||Olde Kensington, Kensington South, Ludlow, Yorktown, East and West Poplar, Northern Liberties, and Girard/Poplar|
|||Richmond||2987 Almond Street||19134-4955||215-685-9992||Richmond and Port Richmond|
|||Roxborough||6245 Ridge Avenue||19128-2630||215-685-2550||Roxborough, Manayunk and Wissahickon|
|||South Philadelphia||1700 South Broad Street||19145-2392||215-685-1866||-|
|||Tacony||6742 Torresdale Avenue||19135-2416||215-685-8755||-|
|||Thomas F. Donatucci, Sr.||1935 Shunk Street||19145-4234||215-685-1755||Girard Estate, Packer Park, Passyunk Homes, St. Richards, and West Passyunk|
|||Torresdale||3079 Holme Avenue||19136-1101||215-685-0494||Academy Gardens, Ashton-Woodbridge, Pennypack, Pennypack Woods, Upper Holmesburg, and Winchester Park|
|||Wadsworth||1500 Wadsworth Avenue||19150-1699||215-685-9293||Wadsworth, Cedarbrook, Ivy Hill, and East Mt. Airy|
|||Walnut Street West||201 South 40th Street||19104||215-685-7671||University City and Spruce Hill|
|||Welsh Road||9233 Roosevelt Boulevard||19114-2205||215-685-0498||lower Bustleton and eastern Torresdale|
|||West Oak Lane||2000 Washington Lane||19138-1344||215-685-2843||West Oak Lane and parts of Cedarbrook, Ivy Hill, and East Mt. Airy|
|||Whitman||200 Snyder Avenue||19148-2620||215-685-1754||Whitman and Pennsport|
|||Widener||2808 West Lehigh Avenue||19132-3296||215-685-9799||North Central, Strawberry Mansion, and Allegheny West|
|||Wynnefield||5325 Overbrook Avenue||19131-1498||215-685-0298||Wynnefield and Overbrook Farms|
|||Wyoming||231 East Wyoming Avenue||19120-4439||215-685-9158||-|
- "The Nation's Largest Libraries: A Listing By Volumes Held". ala.org. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
- "Philadelphia Home Rule Charter".
- "Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation surpasses fundraising goal".
- "Free Library of Philadelphia Annual Report".
- Gallery, John Andrew, ed. (2004). Philadelphia Architecture: A Guide to the City (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Foundation for Architecture. ISBN 0962290815., p.100
- Teitelman, Edward & Longstreth, Richard W. (1981). Architecture in Philadelphia: A Guide. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 0262700212., p.111
- "Authors at the Free Library this fall".
- "Free Library Hot Spots".
- "Fels study shows Free Library’s economic impact".
- "FLP - History of the Library".
- "Bequests by Dr. James". New York Times. January 17, 1903.
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