Largest Gift Ever for Philadelphia Free Library

The William Penn Foundation donated $25 million for renovations of five neighborhood libraries and the Parkway Central Library.

The William Penn Foundation has given the Free Library of Philadelphia $25 million, the largest gift ever made to the library. (Sorry, that donation of old paperbacks you made to the Book Corner last year has been surpassed.)

The money will not go to the Moshe Safdie-designed expansion of the main branch, which is on indefinite hold. Instead, it will be spread across the entire system.

The largest chunk of the grant ($17-18 million) will be spent upgrading five neighborhood libraries, a project that’s slated to cost $40 million in all. The other $7 million will go to the continued rehab of the Parkway Central Library’s interior. The Inquirer explains:

Old storage stacks on six levels on the north side of the building will be demolished, and three new levels will replace them. On the first floor will go what the library is calling “the common,” a flexible, 8,000-square-foot lobbylike space that will eventually lead into the new addition. One level below will be a center for business-building and career assistance. Below that, compact shelving will replace much of the storage capacity of the six levels of stacks, but in a much more condensed space.

The Inquirer reports the $25 million grant is eight percent of the William Penn Foundation’s budget.

In other library news, Penn Medicine donated $1,200 to WePAC, a West Philly group that staffs school libraries on a volunteer basis. “If you can get kids motivated to read, they are less likely to drop out and become a trauma patient,” Janet McMaster, a HUP trauma nurse that applied for the grant, told The Daily Pennsylvanian.

[Inquirer | Newsworks]