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Last Build Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2017 00:29:56 EST

Copyright: Copyright 2017 Free Library of Philadelphia

Rosh Hashanah Is a SWEET Time to Visit the Free Library


Rosh Hashanah—the celebration of the Jewish new year—begins at sundown on Wednesday night, September 20. Even those not celebrating the holiday may be preparing, as Philadelphia schools are closed Thursday and Friday. Whether you will be heading to synagogue or will be looking for activities to fill your children’s time off from school, the Free Library has great resources for the occasion. On Rosh Hashanah, which is Hebrew for "head of the year," special sections from the Old Testament—known as the Torah or Pentateuch (which in Greek means "five books")—are read. These stories of the biblical figures Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Isaac, and Ishmael have deep messages about family, relationships, and struggle. Children’s books like With a Mighty Hand: The Story in the Torah present these stories in an accessible way for children. Parents looking to share information about the holiday itself with children need look no further than our online catalog, which is brimming with wonderful picture books that explain the holiday’s meaning and traditions—including the blowing of the shofar, a special horn, to announce the new year, and the eating of apples and honey, which symbolizes the wish for a sweet and healthy new year.  The Free Library has more than just children’s material. In our extensive Judaica collection, the Rosenbach has a copy of the Bologna Pentateuch from 1482—the first printed Hebrew Bible with vowels. (Hebrew is often written without vowels, which are added symbols rather than their own letters.) One of the great treasures of the Rosenbach’s Judaica collection, it was recently re-bound in period-inspired decorated leather covers. The Rosenbach’s collection of early American Judaica also includes several Hebrew incunabula, the Amsterdam Haggadah of 1695 (the first with a map of the Exodus), and the first Hebrew grammar printed in the United States (1731).  Want to see the Rosh Hashanah stories in the Bologna Pentateuch up close for the holiday, but can’t make it to the Rosenbach? The book has been fully digitized for viewing at the Internet Archive, thanks to support from the David Berg Foundation.  While Philadelphia schools are closed Thursday and Friday, the Free Library is open and is a great destination for those not celebrating the holiday. Neighborhood libraries will be as vibrant as ever, inviting the city’s students to Yoga for Kids at Andorra Library, storytimes with live chickens and dancing (at Fumo Family and South Philadelphia libraries, respectively), a Crafteroon at Parkway Central Library, Wii racing at Kensington Library, and so much more. Check out all the offerings in our Calendar of Events! Shanah tovah (wishes for a good year) from the Free Library of Philadelphia! [...]

I Visited Every Free Library Location and Here's What I Learned...


When I came aboard at the Free Library of Philadelphia in March of this year as Chief of Staff, I set a goal to make it to all 54 neighborhood library locations. It was important to me to do so for a number of reasons. My hope was to meet the staff at each location, ask questions, learn about what works, and, likewise, what challenges exist. I also feel it is important to meet employees in their environment, rather than asking them to come to me. I like getting out of the office! I may not have made it to all 54 in one day like my colleague Kate, but I traveled to one cluster at a time (our system is broken into nine clusters of libraries within close proximity to one another) beginning in May, and I finished in July. Now, it’s time to reflect. My neighborhood library is Overbrook Park, and I spend my work days in the Parkway Central Library on Vine Street, so I was excited to see what else the Free Library is doing in our city. The visits consisted of the coordinator of that particular cluster taking me around to each library in the area, and introducing me to the branch head, who would then take me on a tour and introduce me to the rest of the staff. While I left each library feeling inspired, and with a variety of thoughts swirling in my head, what I took away from the experience, above all else, is that we’re doing the same work for all citizens of Philadelphia, no matter which library they call home. Each library is unique and fits perfectly into that particular neighborhood. It’s almost like the people match their library, in a way, and I found that so very interesting. Everyone seemed right at home—they know each other, they know the staff, they gave warm greetings. These libraries mean so much to the communities they serve. It was special to see it firsthand. I also got to see and learn about the organizations in these communities with which the libraries work on a regular basis, from schools to Friends groups to neighborhood associations and everything in between. There is some amazing work being done around our city, and the library is one crucial part of that. I was struck by how beautiful so many of the libraries are. It turns out I have a thing for the Carnegie libraries! I fell in love with their style and architecture. I pass the Haddington Library all the time while taking my son to hockey practice, and I always thought it was a church. Others are real hidden gems in their area—the Queen Memorial Library stood out to me for its simple brick beauty and the greenery surrounding it, not to mention the melodic voices of the preschoolers enjoying storytime! And still others surprised me—the Fishtown Community Library, with its high ceilings and unassuming façade (left over from its fire station past) looks nothing like a library, but it works, and it is a part of its story. That said, nearly every one of our neighborhood libraries needs love. The Rebuild initiative in our city is doing, and will continue to do, great work to improve our libraries, parks, and rec centers, as it is sorely needed. Certainly with old buildings that receive so much traffic, they’ve taken a beating. I saw damage in some way at each location. They each have their own challenges, and we need funding to make improvements and upgrades. They may not all need drastic changes, but they could all use something, whether it’s a fix here or there, new furniture, or better signage. And every library needs to be accessible, that’s so very important. This experience taught me many lessons and has given me a strong foundation as I move forward in my still-new position with the Free Library. I got to visit parts of the city that I hadn’t been to before, and some that I didn’t realize were even within the city limits. It was honestly one of the highlights of my career. They were long, great days. It was daunting, but it was worth it. What an adventure! [...]

Help Adult English Language Learners in Your Community by Volunteering to Tutor!


A version of this post was originally printed in the Southwest Globe Times on Friday, September 8, 2017. 

In today’s employment landscape, English proficiency has become essential to economic opportunity.

Adult English instruction leads to more productive work and better outcomes for immigrants, their children, our communities and the city. As part of a collaborative initiative that seeks to increase access to high-quality adult-education classes in Southwest Philadelphia, the Office of Adult Education (OAE) is offering a free volunteer-tutor training September 23 through October 7.

Every week, Southwest CDC welcomes potential learners to its myPLACESM campus, to take an assessment test and be placed into a nearby class. According to Vanessa Wallace, Adult Education Coordinator at OAE, "We have plenty of willing learners, and need more tutors and classes."

This is where you come in! If you are 18 years old, have a high school diploma, and want to help your community, you can register for a free tutor training. You will receive high-quality instruction from an experienced facilitator and will complete online work at home between sessions. It’s a great opportunity to develop and strengthen your own digital skills. 

What are the benefits of attending the training? In addition to gaining new skills and experiences to put on your résumé and building on existing experience and knowledge, you will building meaningful relationships with learners—thereby supporting other members of the community while strengthening your communication skills and ability to teach others.

Whatever your reason, we believe volunteering can transform you and the world around you. The next Tutor Now: English as a Second Language Training takes place on three Saturdays: September 23, September 30, and October 7, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Attendance at all three sessions is required. The training will be held at Southwest CDC, 6328 Paschall Avenue. Pre-registration is required. For more information, call us at 215-686-6079, or register at

We hope to see you there!

OAE is part of the Paschalville Partnership, a Free Library-led collaboration of 11 organizations working to transform services for job seekers in Southwest Philadelphia. The training is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Mysterious Travelers Tunes Up for Its Fourth Season of Free Jazz Shows with the Philadelphia Jazz Project!


Over three previous concert seasons at the Parkway Central Library, veteran and up-and-coming Philly musicians have explored some questions. What has the Great Migration meant to music in Philadelphia? What happens if librarians commission composers to write music inspired by resources culled from Parkway Central’s subject departments? Musicians answered with concert suites built around children’s books exploring mass incarceration, seedy crime novelettes from Philbrick Hall, historic letters found in our Newspaper and Microfilm Center urging 19th-century African Americans to move to the northern cities, and much more.  For its fourth season with the eminent Philadelphia Jazz Project, our Mysterious Travelers series returns with "Further Investigations" to generate more new music inspired by library collections. We’re expounding on last season’s "Internal Investigations" theme to include more library departments and more musicians. And it’s still completely free!  Get ready for concerts touching just about every department in the library and every brick in Philly history. This season musicians will explore voodoo and the afterlife with the Education, Philosophy, and Religion Department; railway maps of Philadelphia from our Maps Collection; Brazilian and Cuban percussion with the Music Department; Oscar Wilde, Samuel Clemens, and Edgar Allan Poe with the Rare Book Department; and more.  One Monday a month, settle into your seat in the Montgomery Auditorium at the Parkway Central Library—the site where musicians met with librarians to find their musical muses—and let the music find you. 2017-2018 Concert Schedule September 18, 2017 Exotic Drums & Percussion Instruments in Jazz Featuring Dwight James Co-starring the collection & expertise of the librarians in the Music Department Dwight James is a Philadelphia-born and bred drummer, percussionist, and educator. He has performed in concerts in various venues around the globe and has facilitated educational workshops in schools, community centers, museums, and churches. Over his long career, Dwight James has shared the stage with many jazz, R&B, classical, and gospel artists, as well as with storytellers, poets, and spoken-word artists. A member of Philadelphia’s adventurous musical front during the 1970s and 80s, James was also featured on many classic recordings, including Khan Jamal Creative Art Ensemble’s 1972 recording, Drum Dance to the Motherland, Sounds of Liberation’s 1972 self-titled debut album, ‎and Khan Jamal Quintet’s 2002 album, Balafon Dance. Most important is his first album as a leader, the Cadence Jazz Records’ 1983 release, entitled Inner Heat. October 30, 2017 Voodoo & the Afterlife Featuring Chad Taylor Co-starring the collection and expertise of the librarians in the Education, Philosophy & Religion Department Chad Taylor (b. 1973) is a composer, educator, percussionist and scholar who is a co-founder of the Chicago Underground ensembles. Originally from Tempe, AZ, Chad grew up in Chicago where he started performing professionally at the age of 15. Chad has performed on over 75 albums and with artists as diverse as Pharoah Sanders, Marc Ribot, Eric Revis, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Matana Roberts, Darius Jones, Lou Donaldson and Roscoe Mitchell. Chad leads his own band Circle Down, whose debut album was given a five-star review by the All Music Guide. In the review, critic Michael G. Nastos writes: "What is remarkable is that there is no wasted motion, no histrionics or grandstanding, as pure emotion is translated to superlative music making on this most highly recommended recording, one for the ages." November 20, 2017 The Nature of Morality Featuring Ben Singer Co-starring the collection & expertise of the librarians in Philbrick Hall Ben Singer is a drummer local to Philadelphia and strives to build [...]

Why Not Join Cultureshare?


The Free Library’s Cultureshare is nearly here! Don’t miss your chance to subscribe to this exciting new venture that pairs art, music, and writing from locals with pieces from the Free Library’s collections – all in a digital format. Sign up to receive Cultureshare content and to have the chance to be part of the launch party on October 3.

You may be thinking, "So wait, what is this Cultureshare thing again?"

Do you know the concept of Community Shared Agriculture (or a CSA), where you get a "share" of vegetables from local farms? Well, borrowing from that idea, we thought of the concept of a "share" of local art. We asked the public (anyone living in or with a connection to Philadelphia) to submit their art, music, writing, performance, and other mediums to us. We got 150 submissions! Then we asked some experts from around the city to take a look and help us decide which pieces should be included in the first edition. Then, we paired the chosen pieces with images, music, and writings from the Free Library’s collections. We put all the pieces together on a nifty little site, and finally, we asked you—arts and culture lovers—to subscribe.

Now it’s almost time to see what was chosen. Cultureshare will launch on Monday, October 2 with a link in subscribers’ inboxes. Join us in celebrating artists from around Philadelphia, and find out more about the cool stuff in the Free Library’s collections.

The Free Library is grateful to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for their support of this project.

Independence Library Welcomes Interactive Children's Theater Performances for Welcoming Week


Welcoming Week is almost upon us—an annual national series supported by the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs that aims to bring together immigrants, refugees, and native-born residents to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone. In celebration, the Independence Library is excited to welcome Dragon’s Eye Theatre for a series of children’s theater performances, as part of the 2017 Philly Fringe Festival. Dragon’s Eye, a Philadelphia ensemble committed to creating theatrical experiences that celebrate the power of imagination for audiences of all ages and backgrounds, has created an interactive play especially for the multicultural, multilingual customers this neighborhood library serves. The original production Follow Me Through the Gates—the title of which is inspired by a mural inside the library—invites children ages 5 to 10, with accompanying adults, to help Grandfather, Ty, Azsori, and their favorite librarian on a quest to remain true to their roots and true to their friends. The adventure begins on Saturday, September 16, with performances at 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. and continues at the same times on Saturday, September 23 and Saturday, September 30. The performance lasts approximately 45 minutes, with no intermission. It will take place at Independence Library, 18 South 7th Street, utilizing the furniture, artwork, books, and other library items as the architecture of the journey that characters and audience will take together. Playwright Stephanie N. Walters—Philadelphia’s first Asian American playwright, and the daughter of an immigrant from South Korea—will write the play in collaboration with director Suzana Berger and a team of playful Philadelphia actors, inspired by the people of all ages who frequent the Independence Library. The performance is free, but donations to support the theater’s work are welcome. Children will also be invited to share what they like about the show or draw the company a picture of their favorite part. The play will be the Independence Library’s main offering for Welcoming Week, taking place September 15 to 24, 2017. Independence Library serves Philadelphia’s Chinatown neighborhood and frequently hosts events designed to welcome people from the many backgrounds represented by its customers. In keeping with Welcoming Week’s theme, Follow Me Through the Gates will revolve around characters who encounter conflicts between honoring their heritage and living life in America, and who need new ways to welcome and be welcomed. Dragon’s Eye Theatre is known for the original plays Seek & Hide and A Mystery?, both created especially for Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse in Fairmount Park.  "Dragon's Eye Theatre makes plays in places where children and adults from the many different backgrounds that make up our vibrant city can feel comfortable and welcome, where they expect to find great stories and great people. Independence Library is just that kind of place. We're thrilled to be putting our imaginations to work with the stories and people that make it such a colorful destination." – Suzana Berger, Dragon's Eye artistic director Free tickets are available at for the September 16 and 23 performances. For more information and for free ticket reservations for the September 30 performances, visit [...]

Help Children Struggling with Reading by Becoming a Reading Captain Today!


Read by 4th is Philadelphia's Grade-Level Reading campaign, aiming to get all kids reading on grade-level by the time they reach 4th grade. Reading happens everywhere—in our schools, work, homes, and even our blocks! And this year we are introducing our newest inititaive, Reading Captains!

Right now, many of our young children in Philadelphia struggle with reading, but we can change this with your help. Step up and be a Reading Captain for families on your block, building, or organization. Connect people you know to important information so their children can become great readers. All you need is to be 18 years old, someone who enjoys talking with your neighbors, and able to attend a two-hour training workshop. It’s free and a great way to meet other first-time Reading Captains!

Registration is easy. Sign up now, even if you can’t make the first training, as more dates will be coming soon. 

Our first Reading Captain training workshop will take place on:

Saturday, September 16, 2017
10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Community College of Philadelphia
Great Hall, Winnet Student Life Building (second floor)
1700 Spring Garden Street.

Connect families in your neighborhood to reading resources that lead to student success!

How the Free Library Can Help During Self-Improvement Month


We at the Free Library love celebrating monthly themes, especially when they tie in to our resources! September – in addition to being National Library Card Sign-Up Month – is Self-Improvement Month, and it got us thinking about the steps you might take on your self-improvement journey with a little help from the Free Library! Here are just a few examples: Learn a new skill Beginning just this month, the Free Library is pleased to offer free access to to anyone with a library card. is an online training and learning tool for business, software, technology, and creative skills. Offering over 10,000 training and development courses taught by industry experts, offers tutorials in five languages. You will find courses and training videos on everything from web design to media production, management to entrepreneurship, Photoshop to guitar, and much more. Make your goal a reality with and the Free Library! Eat right The Free Library's Culinary Literacy Center – launched in 2014 to revolutionize the way Philadelphians think about food, nutrition, and literacy – offers a variety of workshops and classes focused on healthy eating, as well as tips to becoming more comfortable around the kitchen and when dealing with recipes and measurements. Find something that jumps out at you, and get cooking!     Get in shape Did you know the Free Library offers exercise classes? That’s right, from yoga to Tai Chi, there’s a class for you at a neighborhood library location! The Free Library also partners with Indego to offer free 90-minute instructional classes for those wishing to start bicycling safely in Philadelphia. Rather work out in the comfort and privacy of your own home? Don’t fret! A library card gives you access to a plethora of exercise books and workout tapes to borrow - just browse our catalog!   Organize your finances Whether you want to grow your small business or invest more wisely, our Business Resource & Innovation Center (BRIC) has the tools you need to succeed! Attend a class or chat with a friendly librarian to get the guidance you need.     Cut clutter Drowning in junk? Take charge and get organized with these books and resources on clutter, organization, time management, and what to do with unwanted possessions.     Take control of your health Did you know that the South Philadelphia Library, located at 1700 S. Broad Street, is part of the Community Health and Literacy Center, comprised of the Free Library, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the City of Philadelphia’s Health Center 2, and the DiSilvestro Recreation Center? There, Free Library customers can access the system’s newest items available for lending – electronic blood pressure monitors and food scales! The Free Library also offers disease prevention programs, meditation workshops, flu shot clinics, Medicare information sessions, and many more health-minded events at neighborhood library locations across the city! To learn more about other ways the Free Library can help you become your best self, visit our website at! [...]

Corridor of Culture: 100 Years of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway


In the autumn of 2016, we were tasked with a fascinating challenge: create a bold and welcoming exhibition that would discuss the history of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. On the surface, this isn’t that difficult. As curators in the Special Collections division, we’ve created exhibitions in the past—that’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of our daily endeavors. The challenge we had to face was distilling one hundred years of celebrations, community spirit, architectural feats, and the essence of Philadelphia’s historical heart into twenty-two display cases.          How do you do that? (In truth, we think "How do we do this?" was the header for our first meeting about the exhibition.) After a few rounds of brainstorming, we realized that while it may be impossible to capture all of the events and milestones of the Parkway, life around this grand boulevard could be encapsulated into themes. As we studied the history of the Parkway, the people who have visited it, been inspired by it, and who live on it, our themes grew, adapted, and changed. In many ways, these themes were like the Benjamin Franklin Parkway itself: at a casual glance they seemed solid, but upon a closer examination, it was obvious that they were malleable and were always slightly in flux.           You may wonder how the Parkway is malleable. How could something constructed of brick and stone be adaptable? The simple answer is because of the people and organizations who use it. It was this concept that became the nucleus of our show and helped us create various themes: the history of the Parkway’s construction; the festivals and fun that have happened over the past century; the art and educational opportunities for our citizens and our visitors; the housing—and lack of housing—of the Parkway’s residents; the people who have used the Parkway as a venue to make their voices heard; the joyful events and monuments that reflect the love and faith of our city; and the natural elements that bring the greenery of Fairmount Park into the heart of the city.          We hope you’ll visit Corridor of Culture: 100 Years of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on your next trip to Parkway Central. We had a lot of fun exploring the history of Philadelphia’s grand boulevard, and we hope you’ll enjoy learning about the history of our city. Laura Stroffolino | Curator | Print and Picture Collection Christopher A. Brown | Curator | Children's Literature Research Collection [...]

Every Year Our Librarians Answer Millions of Questions—Literally


Originally posted on the City of Philadelphia’s blog in recognition of Library Card Sign-Up Month.   If you had to guess, how many questions do you think librarians at the Free Library of Philadelphia answer every year? It’s probably a lot, sure, but if you’re thinking thousands, think bigger. Hundreds of thousands? Nope. Even bigger. The answer: 3.4 million reference questions last year alone! Every year, readers and library lovers nationwide observe September as Library Card Sign-Up Month. In 2016, over 5,900 people joined the Free Library of Philadelphia during this festive month. If you’re not a cardholder, you can sign up online right now for free, and the library will mail your card to your house at no cost to you. Here are a few other curious facts about our beloved library system! Last year, the Free Library of Philadelphia saw over 5.1 million visits at all locations. There are dozens of neighborhood locations across Philadelphia. Including the Free Library’s flagship at Parkway Central, there are 49 neighborhood libraries, three regional libraries, the Rosenbach, Community Hot Spots, the Regional Operations Center, and the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped—plus a hub at Philadelphia International Airport. Find your neighborhood library!   Over 5 million virtual visitors used the Free Library’s resources remotely. Together with our brick and mortar locations, the Free Library is open 24/7, 365 on the internet! Last year, over 5 million visitors used digital resources remotely and on our website, giving them access to: over 1 million pieces of streaming music nearly 120,000 streaming or downloadable eBooks, audiobooks, and podcasts more than 150 research databases   Over 3.4 million digital-access sessions helped bridge the digital divide. Last year, there were over 3.4 million sessions at Free Library locations, where people used ebooks, wireless internet access, public computers, and other electronic resources. Nearly every Philadelphian lives within two miles of a Free Library location, which helps make the Library the largest provider of free internet access in, and around, Philadelphia.   Over 112,877 kids participated in LEAP afterschool programs last year. LEAP—Literacy Enrichment After-School Program—provides free homework assistance, computer literacy, and library skills for Philly students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Operating after school Monday through Thursday from September to June at all neighborhood libraries and Parkway Central, LEAP also operates in the three regional libraries Tuesday through Friday. Want more information or to get involved? Contact your neighborhood library or call Youth Services and Programs at 215-686-5372.   Over 635,000 library cardholders can access 6.5 million materials in circulation. Millions of materials constitute the library’s collection, including traditional paper books as well as more than 300,000 audio materials, DVDs, journals, magazines, and newspaper titles! There are also "non-traditional" items cardholders may borrow at some libraries, including ties for job interviews at the Paschalville Library and musical instruments at the Parkway Central Library Music Department. Every year, Philadephiansparticipate in over 26,000 public programs at the Library. From container gardening workshops to healthy cooking classes to job readiness seminars, the Free Library of Philadelphia ensures that Philadelphians in every neighborhood have access to programs that increases their knowledge, social connection, and overall well-being. Ready to join the Free Library of Philadelphia for #LibraryCardSignup Month[...]