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Last Build Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2018 06:56:29 EST

Copyright: Copyright 2018 Free Library of Philadelphia

Celebrate the Year of the Dog with the Free Library!


Today, February 16, we celebrate the Year of the Dog!

In the video below, Jenifer Chang, Chief of Central Public Services Division at Parkway Central Library, discusses the history and traditions behind Chinese New Year and how the Free Library will be celebrating.

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The fifteen-day celebration starts on the new moon and people participate in traditional activities such as:

  • Sweeping out the old year and welcoming the new
  • Rejoicing and reuniting with family
  • Cooking special foods
  • Honoring ancestors
  • Distributing and receiving red envelopes for good fortune
  • Participating in the special dragon/lion dance
  • Making loud noises with firecrackers
  • Schools and businesses are closed for an extended holiday break so people can visit families and relatives far away.

"Chuan Lian", made up of strips of red papers, are hung on doors and windows to keep out bad spirits and bring in good luck. The Chinese character "Fu" is hung upside down to mean "happiness has arrived." People wear red to scare away the evil. Everyone gets new clothes and haircuts. A special menu is prepared with dumplings, fish, noodles, oranges, and turnip cake. These foods represent prosperity, abundance, long life, great wealth, and rising fortune.

One popular Chinese legend is of the wild beast named "Nian." Nian would attack villages, searching for food. To keep the beast away from their homes, people painted the doors of their houses red. They built fires and set off firecrackers until the beast ran away.

The Chinese also believe you share some traits with the animal that rules the year in which you were born. There are twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.

You can browse and check out books and videos from our catalog that explore the hidden gems of Chinese culture and the Chinese New Year.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Free Library to explore the Chinese New Year and learn more about Chinese culture. See you soon, and Gong Xi Fa Cai! ("Happy New Year" in Mandarin).

Celebrating History's Unsung Creative Couples


On February 7, we opened a new exhibition celebrating the art and achievements of romantic couples, from the powerful royalty of the 16th century to cinema stars of Old Hollywood to local artists creating together today. Of Two Minds: Creative Couples in Art and History not only challenges the notion that creativity and authorship are solo endeavors, but shines light on the many different ways these artists lived, loved, and created together. The Rosenbach collaborated with the Free Library of Philadelphia on curating the exhibition, and with contributions from the Children’s Literature Research Collection, Print and Picture Collection, and Rare Book Department, the gallery features work created by romantic couples from the sixteenth century to the present. Some are well-known, like Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, but one of the great pleasures of this exhibition is the chance to explore the stories of couples whose lives aren't so well-known.  Among these were Charles de Soussy Ricketts and Charles Shannon, two talented artists who fell in love in art school and spent most of their lives living and creating together. In their London house, The Vale, Ricketts and Shannon made a living from their art: portrait commissions for the painterly Shannon, book design projects for illustrator Ricketts. Eventually they became well-versed in one another's crafts and worked together on projects such as The Dial, an art journal they designed and published, featuring wood engravings they drew and cut themselves. They sent an issue of The Dial to their neighbor, celebrity playwright Oscar Wilde, who admired their work and befriended the pair. After that, Wilde would commission Ricketts and Shannon to design and illustrate nearly all of his books, including The House of Pomegranates depicted here. Ricketts also designed costumes for the stage production of Wilde's Salome, which led to a career in design for the stage and film that lasted the rest of his professional life. The ornate volume of short stories on display in our exhibition was bequested to the Rosenbach by Maurice Sendak; we displayed the beautiful gilded title page in our exhibition Recent Acquisitions from the Bequest of Maurice Sendak last spring. Sadly, the love story of Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon has a heartbreaking ending. In 1928, Shannon suffered neurological damage from a bad fall from a ladder, and required extensive care until his death in 1937; Ricketts, devastated by his partner's poor health and working ceaselessly to support their household, died of heart failure in 1931. Rather than end this post on a sad note, however, I'd prefer to quote extensively from the memoirs of a friend of the pair. Painter and printmaker William Rothenstein was introduced to Ricketts and Shannon by their mutual friend Oscar Wilde; by his own report, Rothenstein was immediately enamored of the couple, not only because of their artistic talent and success, but because of the enviable life they made together. Rothenstein's memoir paints a beautiful portrait of a home shared by artists in harmony, collectors of fine art, and partners in life. But in those early Chelsea days I was especially attracted by Ricketts and Shannon — they were so different from any artists I had met hitherto. Everything about them was refined and austere. Ricketts, with his pale, delicate features, fair hair and pointed gold-red beard, looked like a Clouet drawing. Half French, he had the quick mind and the rapid speech of a southerner. He was a fascinating talker. His knowledge of pictures and galleries astonished me; he had been nowhere except to the Louvre, yet he seemed to know everything, to have been everywhere. And he knew the names of rare flowers, of shells and of precious stones. Shannon was as quiet and inarticulate as Ricketts was restless and eloquent. He had a ruddy boyish face, like a countryman&rsquo[...]

#OneBookWednesday: Black History, Our Philadelphia


How do we dream ourselves out of this?

It’s 1968, 50 years ago. This is what August, a young girl freshly uprooted from her rural Tennessee home, now living in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, asks herself as she stares at the cover of Life magazine. Wide eyes in the hunger-hollowed faces of two other black children look back at her.

August never lived. Not in the sense that you and I do. She’s the protagonist of a novel, Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, the featured selection of 2018’s One Book, One Philadelphia program. Yet what she wants to know—how to dream oneself away—must be a question asked in one way or another by so many other black women and men who are, and have been, as real as any of us.

How do we dream ourselves away from violence, from our bodies and lives being devalued? How do we dream ourselves away from poverty, from the damage of systemic employment and housing discrimination, voter restrictions, and other forms of racism enshrined in policy? How do we dream ourselves away from the everyday slights—the things we might not think much of, but that add up to equal a people deemed less? How can we erase disparity—in wealth, in housing, in education, in health care, in just about every star that studs the flag of the American Dream?

We work, of course. We act. We fight. We read. We listen to the legacies of what we know. Many historians mark 1968 as one of the United States’ most turbulent and pivotal. The Vietnam War raged, and with it, protests. The Civil Rights Act was passed. But first, riots swept through American cities as people reeled from the shock, sadness, and anger at Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

In 1868, a century before King’s death—and 1818, a sesquicentennial before—W.E.B. Du Bois and Frederick Douglass were born. Both spent time in Philadelphia, an epicenter of abolitionist activism and thriving black communities.

How do we dream ourselves out of this? Whether from behind a podium, a desk, or the bars of a prison cell, these men may have asked themselves this question.

They worked, acted, fought, read. They learned, like the thousands of unsung women and men who walked before them, alongside them, whose names we have only heard vaguely of, or whose names are lost to history. Just like August, a brown girl dreaming who never lived—not in the sense that you and I do. Yet somehow her story touches, speaks to, and underscores our own. Black History Month belongs to Martin Luther King, it belongs to W.E.B. Du Bois, it belongs to Frederick Douglass, it belongs to the millions of names we hardly know or never will. Just as it belongs to August, to author Jacqueline Woodson. As it belongs to me, to you. To all of us. We do wise to learn from legacy. 

The story of blacks in America is a parable of how we dream. It isn’t just a question of how we dream ourselves out—it’s the answer of how we dream ourselves into the world we want. It’s how we dream ourselves into holding that starred flag high.

Work, act, fight, read, listen. This month, and always, dream in.

**Check back every #OneBookWednesday during the season for some more One Book food-for-thought and reflection! For a full list of events, visit our online calendar.**

We <3 You Too!


Thank you for being our valentine all year round. 

Because of the love you’ve shown us, we are able to…

…run the largest no-cost afterschool program in the city, LEAP, for the 27th year.

…help job seekers nail the big interview and lay out a roadmap to success with entrepreneurs at our Business Resource and Innovation Center.

…partner with literacy advocates across the city through Read by 4th and raise 3rd-grade reading scores in Philadelphia by 4.5% since last year—in the District alone that means 500 more children reading on grade level.

…connect New Americans and English-language learners to their cultural roots and their new home in Philadelphia as they learn about nutrition, practice meal planning, and cook together in our Culinary Literacy Center.

Look what we can accomplish together! It all starts with love. Your participation in and support of the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation makes all this, and more, possible. 

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. 

The Free Library


Teens Collaborate to Create Dedicated Space for Themselves at Fumo Family Library


For several weeks this past summer, a group of teens from South Philly High School visited Fumo Family Library for summer programming. One day, a teen wondered aloud where she should sit. First she looked left and saw the children's area: brightly colored with its tiny tables and chairs; then she looked in front of her and saw the adult area, with its no-frills shelving and utilitarian seating, and then she looked at me. That's when it hit home—Our library didn't have a proper space for teens! Sure, we have the requisite teen books, comics, and manga; but it's not inviting. No seats. No charging station. Nothing that says, "Hey teens, you are welcome here!"  Our staff went into brainstorming mode. We surmised that if we moved a towering shelving unit out of the teen area and shifted some shelving around, we would have some room for a cool, little teen corner. Unfortunately, we couldn't stretch our budget to make this dream a reality, which is also the reality of many libraries. That's when we turned to our Strategic Initiatives department. Several times each year, this department solicits, selects, and funds innovations and ideas generated by Free Library of Philadelphia staff members. After our idea to create a Teen Corner  was selected, we recruited sixteen teenagers from Central High School, GAMP, Mastery Charter High School, Kirkbride, and a couple of homeschoolers to see what they would want in a teen space. Alexandra Romirowsky, an Innovation Analyst from Blue Cross, walked the two groups of teens through a design thinking exercise. She spoke about making assumptions, then flipping them, and encouraged thinking outside the norm. For example, one would assume there are desks in the teen area, but turn that concept around and you might have rolling tables with storage space built in, or lap desks or collapsible desks. The teens were asked to write one word on a Post-it note to describe how they wish to feel in the space. Some of the adjectives they chose included: calm, happy, comfortable, interactive, stress-free, versatile, creative, sympathetic, comfortable, happy, relaxed, uninterrupted, bright, and inspired.  The teens also used Post-its to describe what they wanted to do in the space: They want to study, learn, do homework, create art, seek or have volunteer opportunities, meet new people, read, relax, or just hang out. Lastly, the teens were asked to envision the space. In other words, what will this space look like? They wanted it to have plants, computers, charging stations, inspiring quotes, a TV, music, cool flooring, snacks, new books, board games, and dimmable lighting; a tall order for such a small space, but it's all part of the creative process and dreaming big is never a bad thing. The last piece of the exercise had them take all three aspects and make sketches based on their ideas and present them to the group. This following video explores how the teens came to their conclusions.  allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> Where do we go from here? Our next step is to bring the teens back after we've narrowed down the furnishing options based on their wishes and let them select what they want the most. We are also planning a springtime fundraiser to bolster our grant, so we may make smaller modifications in the future. In the meantime, teens are invited to the library every Saturday at 12:30 p.m. for our DIY maker series, and future Saturday teen programming will include henna design workshops, stop-motion animation, and various arts and crafts projects. In May,[...]

February 2018 Early Literacy Calendar


Happy February, everyone! Let’s celebrate Black History Month with our favorite African American authors and illustrators. The recently published books linked to in this month's downloadable calendar are great to share all year long.

And after you read all of those suggested titles, make time to check out this year's Youth Media Award winners, including the Caldecott, Newbery, Pura Belpre and Geisel awards, among others. Pay special attention to the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, given annually "to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values."

Below you'll also find some entertaining and educational videos for children about African American men and women who helped shape and better our world!

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This month's Early Literacy calendar and links, compiled by Free Library of Philadelphia's children's librarians, is full of great suggestions that parents and caregivers can engage in with their children to help nurture and develop necessary Early Literacy skills!

Download Early Literacy Calendar for February 2018 »

Stop in at your local neighborhood library and ask a children's librarian for more tips and suggestions on Early Literacy; we're always here to help!

Additional calendar design and content by Peter Santa Maria.

Black Panther: Hero. Legend. King.


So we’ve all seen the trailer for the Black Panther film right? And we are all super-duper excited for it, yes? I know I am beyond hype and come February 16th (ish), my popcorn and I will be front and center for this one! allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> In the meantime, here is your chance to catch up on all things T’Challa and Wakanda via some of our amazing comic collections! Black Panther: Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates T'Challa confronts a dramatic upheaval in Wakanda that will make leading the African nation tougher than ever before. When a superhuman terrorist group calling itself The People sparks a violent uprising, the land famed for its incredible technology and proud warrior traditions will be thrown into turmoil. As suicide bombers terrorize the population, T'Challa struggles to unite his citizens, and a familiar villain steps out of the shadows. If Wakanda is to survive, it must adapt—but can its monarch, one in a long line of Black Panthers, survive the necessary change? Heavy lies the head that wears the cowl!       Black Panther: World of Wakanda by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxanne Gay You know them now as the Midnight Angels, but in this story they are just Ayo and Aneka, young women recruited to become Dora Milaje, an elite task force trained to protect the crown of Wakanda at all costs. Their first assignment will be to protect Queen Shuri. Meanwhile, former king T'Challa lies with bedfellows so dark, disgrace is inevitable. Explore the true origins of The People's mysterious leader, Zenzi. Black Panther thinks he knows who Zenzi is and how she got her powers, but he only knows part of the story...       Black Panther & the Crew: We Are the Streets by Ta-Nehisi Coates Black Panther, Storm, Luke Cage, Misty Knight and Manifold band together to take on a dangerous wave of street-level threats. The death of a Harlem activist kicks off a mystery that will reveal surprising new secrets about the Marvel Universe's past and set the stage for a huge story in the near future! Fear, hate, and violence loom, but don't worry, The Crew's got this: They are the streets.         Black Panther: Doomwar by Jonathan Maberry As a new Black Panther struggles to hold her country together against a backdrop of betrayal, she is set on a collision course with one of the Marvel Universe's most feared and powerful despots! But when Doctor Doom stands triumphant, war in Wakanda will pit the world's most relentless super villain against a collection of the world's most powerful super heroes. With the mutant Storm's life in the balance, it will take the combined forces of the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Deadpool, and—not one but two Black Panthers—to stand against Doom! As T'Challa makes his return to his former kingdom, will Shuri retain her title and throne long enough to once again face Klaw, master of sound?     And if you need a playlist to listen to while reading, check out the Kendrick Lamar-curated and produced Black Panther album soundtrack, featuring SZA, Schoolboy Q, 2 Chainz, Swae Lee, Vince Staples, Ab-Soul, Anderson Paak and James Blake, Jay Rock, Future, The Weekend, and many more! allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="380" src="" width="300"> Can't get enough of comics and graphic novels?  Save the date for the next Free Library Comic Con on Saturday, May 12th 2018! Check out more Black Panther titles in our catalog and let us know which is your fave in the comments! [...]

Philly Theatre Week and a Look at Philadelphia Theatre History


Philly Theatre Week, presented by Theatre Philadelphia, is a 10-day celeration of the artists, organizations, and audiences that have made Greater Philadelphia one of the most vibrant theatre regions in the nation. With over 75 events taking place, there's bound to be something to spark your interest. While many are, of course, theatrical productions, the Theatre Collection of the Free Library is thrilled to be particpating by presenting the pop-up exhibition "A Look at the History of Philadelphia Theatre" in the Rare Book Department at the Parkway Central Library. On view Monday through Saturday, February 8-17, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the exhibition highlights the history of Philadelphia theatre, particularly the proliferation of theaters in the 19th century and how this mirrors the city's current theatre scene. Playbill for the Philadelphia Theatre from December 20, 1816 From the late 1700s into the 1830s, Philadelphia was the center of theare in America, and, while New York may have stolen a bit of the limelight after that, it carried on this strong tradition throughout the remainder of the 19th century. In fact, over 100 theatres opened in Philadelphia in the 1800s alone. Some, like the Chestnut Street Theatre, the Walnut Street Theatre, and the Arch Street Theatre, became well known for the quality of their performances and lavish buildings. The Chestnut Street Theatre, also known as the Philadelphia Theatre, opened in 1794 with capacity for 2,000 audience members, and in 1816, it became the first theatre in America to be lit by gas fixtures. The Walnut Street Theatre, which is the oldest continually operating theatre in America, had multiple managers, like most theatres at the time. In 1834, Francis Wemyss took over and renovated the lobby to project strong patriotic themes, which may be why the theatre was sometimes called the American Theatre, Walnut Street during his tenure as manager. While the building has been remodeled a few times since it opened in 1809, audience members can still get a sense of the history thanks to a renovation in 1969 that restored the ornate 1828 facade. Stereograph of the Arch Street Theatre from around 1870 The Arch Street Theatre was not only home to great performances, it was also the first major American theatre to be managed by a woman. Louisa Lane Drew, also known as Mrs. John Drew, was born into a theatrical family and began her own acting career at age eight. In 1850, she married fellow actor John Drew and the couple settled in Philadelphia. Ten years later, after John's failure at managing the Arch Street Theatre, the stockholders turned the theatre over to Louisa. "The Arch" thrived under her leadership and became known as Mrs. John Drew's Arch Street Theatre, banking on her fame to draw in an audience as she continued to perform. In 1892, she retired from active management, and through her five children, she ultimately became the matriarch of one of the greatest acting families of all time: the Barrymores. Georgie Drew Barrymore (left) and Mrs. John Drew (right) from 1882 But it will not just be these theatres discussed in the exhibition, but patrons will need to stop by to learn more. On view will be playbills, photographs, and other ephemera giving a bit of historical context to Philadelphia theatre today. In addition to this exhibition, the Free Library's Literature Department is partnering with the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre to host "Shakespeare in Love: Open-Mic Poetry Night" in the Skyline Room of the Parkway Central Library on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.  The event is free, but an RSVP is required. Philly Theatre Week's Partners and Sponsors include TodayTix, Time Out Philadelphia, WXPN, Yards Brewing, Wy[...]

#OneBookWednesday: A Love Letter for You


Dear reader, Perhaps a dying art, or perhaps in fact an art that has now expanded in form, letter-writing creates a tangible connection between humans. Usually, letters are thought to be written on pieces of paper, exchanged between two individuals who care deeply for each other. Is an essay a letter? A poem? A novel? The Boston Globe refers to Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn as "a love letter to loss, girlhood, and home." And thus, a novel also becomes a letter, one written to its many readers. Perhaps Another Brooklyn is a letter from August, a girl who never quite knew how to share the pain of losing the friendships of her four friends, her chosen sisters. Perhaps August’s story is a love letter to her absent mother, her religious father, her younger brother, her three closest friends. Perhaps it is a love letter that looks to embody all the words she couldn’t say during the difficult moments in her life. Perhaps it is a love letter for memories, desperate to preserve not just love, but the sting of loss. Letters not only allow individuals to share memories with one another, but they can also be a way to envision the future together. They can connect those who are away from each other in distance, allowing one to learn about the daily activities of her friend. They can also help create and strengthen emotional ties. In difficult moments in my own life, sometimes writing it all down made it make more sense. To be able to put weight to each word, thinking of its intention and how I want­, or need, it to be said—warping it to mean exactly what I had always meant to say. Writing can help build a community based on shared stories. The Dornsife Center Writers Room recently partnered with One Book, One Philadelphia to look beyond the letter in its original form, looking to other forms of writing such as poetry and essays for further connection. This writing workshop, inspired by Another Brooklyn, was part of the Writers Room First Tuesday series. This workshop is free, open to all, and is a wonderful place to explore the craft of writing and create shared stories. On a One Book note, Writers Room often heads over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Prints, Drawings, and Photographs Collection for ekphrastic workshops—a program that focuses on writing letters in response to the photos in the collection. On March 10, get a really special look at the collection’s photos, tied to memory and other themes in Another Brooklyn.   And, if a novel can be considered a letter in some shape or form, can’t other forms of creative expression, such as theater or music, be letters as well? The Dornsife Center of Neighborhood Partnerships not only provides programs for writers, but for all those who want to share their creativity, including through music and theater. If you’re interested in the purest form of letter-writing and need some inspiration, check out Letters of Note: Volume 2: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience, a volume of over 125 letters written by various individuals over many centuries. Yours, Lo, Free Library of Philadelphia **Check back every #OneBookWednesday during the season for some more One Book food-for-thought and reflection! For a full list of events, visit our online calendar.** [...]

A History Minute: 11 Things You Didn't Know About Julian Abele, Architect of the Parkway


As Head Designer of Horace Trumbauer’s architecture firm, Julian Abele designed the Free Library and the Philadelphia Art Museum and set the tone for the entire parkway. He designed buildings and palatial estates throughout the Philadelphia region as well as in New York City, Boston, and Newport, R.I.  But there was more to this self-effacing man than columns and pediments... Julian Abele was born into Philadelphia’s African-American aristocracy. His mother was descended from Absalom Jones , founder of the Free African Society. and St. Thomas Episcopal Church.   Julian, the youngest of eight children, was just one of several successful siblings. His brother Joseph was an engineer with the Philadelphia Electric company. His brother Robert was a physician who graduated at the top of his class at Hahneman Medical College. His brother Charles was a brass sign maker who worked with Sam Yellin, a major figure in the American Arts and Crafts Movement.   Abele was far better educated than his longtime boss Horace Trumbauer. Abele was educated at the Institute for Colored Youth, where he won the Mathematics Prize and gave the commencement address. He graduated first in his class from the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Arts, where he was the only black student. In 1902, he became the first black student to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Fine Arts, where he won several prizes and was elected president of the Architectural Society during his senior year.   While at Penn, excelling at his studies and winning prizes, Abele was also working fulltime at the Louis Hickman Architectural Firm. By 1901, he was listed as an architect in the Philadelphia city directory.   While Abele is credited with the design of  250 buildings, his name did not appear on most of the plans. After graduating from Penn, Abele joined Horace Trumbauer’s firm. He became Trumbauer’s chief designer in 1909 when Frank Seeberger left to form his own firm, but Abele did not sign any plans with his own name until after Trumbauer’s death in 1938, when he and William Frank took over the firm.  While it was common practice for plans to be signed with the name of the firm, Abele’s race may have played a part in this as well.   Abele lived with his sister, Elizabeth Cook and her children, whom he raised as his own. In 1916, Abele purchased the ten room, 3-story rowhouse at 1515 Christian Street, where he lived until his death in 1950.   Abele owned some fine antiques but designed and made much of his own furniture, including the needlepoint covers. He also made jewelry, paintings and lithographs as gifts for friends.   Abele’s wife was a bigamist. In 1925, at the age of 44, Abele married Marguerite Bulle, a 20-something Frenchwoman and protégé of French musician Nadia Boulanger. They had three children, Julian Jr., Marguerite Marie (who died of measles at age 5), and Nadia.  But the strains of an interracial marriage and the differences in age and personality took a toll. Marguerite had an affair with Jozep Kowalewski and, in 1933, asked Abele for a divorce. He refused and Marguerite remained in their home. But she moved to a separate bedroom and continued to see Kowalewski. In 1936 Marguerite, now pregnant with Kowalewski’s child, left Abele and married Kowalewski at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.  Marguerite and Kowalewski continued to live in Philadelphia, but Julian, Jr., and Nadia stayed with their father.   The Free Library contains within it another of Abele’s creations added in the late 1940s. When William McIntire Elkins died in 1947, he left his entire library of priceless books[...]