Morning Headlines: Free Library To Get $25 Million Grant For Branch Renovations

Courtesy of the William Penn Foundation.

Photo credit: Kansas Sebastian via Flickr.

Photo credit: Kansas Sebastian via Flickr.

In news that is sure to quell left over fears from rumored library closings a fews years ago, the William Penn Foundation has promised to grant FLP $25 million over the course of three years. The donation will fund the redesign of outdated storage stacks at Central Library on Vine Street, a proposed community center addition to Lovett Memorial Library in Mount Airy, and renovations for branches on Broad Street and West Lehigh, Wagner, and Torresdale Avenues.

According to the Inquirer’s Peter Dobrin, Free Library president and director Siobahn Reardon sees the renovations as the “architectural manifestation of a recent shift in mission that concentrates on job-seekers, pre-K children, entrepreneurs and small-business owners, new Americans, people with disabilities, and consumers of medical and health-care information.”  This “shift” came after Reardon attended community forums and realized different neighborhoods needed access to different programs and information, NewsWorks’ Peter Crimmins reports.

Indeed, it was this transformation in FLP’s mission that attracted the Penn Foundation in the first place. From the Inquirer:

This evolving institutional philosophy spoke to William Penn, whose executive director, Laura Sparks, stressed the increasing role of the library in providing literacy assistance and services for immigrants and job-seekers. She said that with schools and churches closing, “even more needs are emerging.” The latest gift from William Penn shows “a commitment by the family to being in it for the long haul,” Sparks said.

The portion going to the neighborhood libraries will total $18 million, an amount Crimmins says is included in the $40 million dollar “Building Inspiration: 21st Century Libraries” campaign that involves “tailor[ing] branch libraries to fit the specific needs of their communities.” Also helping reach this goal are the City of Philadelphia ($4.5 million), City Council ($2 million), the state ($6 million), and various private donations.

Crimmins adds that the five branch libraries, set to begin renovation work in upcoming months, may have year-long closings. Work on Central Library, which is meant to be the first step toward an expansion Dobrin says “would someday extend the library building north across Wood Street,” isn’t expected until next year.

Free Library gets its biggest grant ever [Inquirer]

William Penn Foundation bestows $25 million on Free Library for innovations, renovations [NewsWorks]

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