Largest grant in Free Library history will go to renovations, modernization

A graphic rendition of how the Children's Department at the Free Library's Logan branch will be redesigned. Credit: Free Library of Philadelphia A graphic rendition of how the Children’s Department at the Free Library’s Logan branch will be redesigned. Credit: Free Library of Philadelphia

The Free Library of Philadelphia announced today that it will embark upon a massive renovation and expansion at the central library, as well as specialization at five neighborhood branches, in an attempt to better meet the needs of Philadelphia.

“This is transformational,” said Free Library of Philadelphia president and director Siobhan Reardon. “It’s wonderful to have real partners in the process. … Thiis is coming out of what we needed to do, when we looked around.”

The Free Library’s $60 million project, “Building Inspiration: 21st Centuries Libraries Initiative,” will include a redesign of the Parkway Central Library branch, designed by famed architect Moshe Safdie.

The Free library branches with renovation projects include the Lillian Marrero Library in North Philly, Logan Library, Lovett Memorial Library in Mt. Airy, South Philadelphia Library, and Tacony Library.

These branches will both get face-lifts appearance-wise and a new “programmatic focus” based on the needs of the community based on feedback from residents of those neighborhoods.

At the South Philadelphia branch, for example, the library will partner with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to develop a new specialty of providing health and wellness information — as well as services for recent immigrants.

“A lot of patrons already come in looking for computer resources and health info — it’s confusing out there,” said Tiffany Nardella, a librarian at the South Philadelphia branch. “It will be great to have a computer lab for kids.”

The Tacony Library will be focused on small business and entrepreneurs.

The Lovett Memorial Library will be established as a new community center for the Mt. Airy neighborhood.

The Logan Library will focus on family literacy.

The Lillian Marrero Library will focus on early childhood literacy and services for recent immigrants.

The project was partly funded with a $25 million grant from the William Penn Foundation, the largest gift in the library’s history.

“Libraries are where we go to learn, to grow. We come in contact with other creative ideas, we can ask questions, we can explore,” said Dr. Janet Haas, vice-chair of the William Penn Foundation Board of Directors. “Libraries are accessibly to everyone, all economic classes, all walks of life, all ages. You’re never too old or too young to learn.”

For more information about the project, visit

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