Recently I attended a computer workshop in a classroom at Philadelphia FIGHT, an agency that immerses itself in AIDS, providing primary care, consumer education, advocacy and research on potential treatments and potential vaccines. And I learned that FIGHT has a library devoted to treatments, nutrition and the history of AIDS, and referrals to regional and national resources. Who knew?
So I began to wonder what other Philadelphia libraries I have neither heard of nor visited. I found 36 members of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries, plus some other remarkable contenders.
In no particular order, here are seven favorites:
1. Philadelphia FIGHT AIDS library
Originally the Field Initiating Group for HIV Trials, FIGHT houses the largest of three AIDS libraries in the country. (The Boston AIDS Information Outreach Project and, Wayne State University in Detroit have smaller collections.)
Mignon Adams, librarian emeritus at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, says the local AIDS library has a national reputation. It is located where its constituency is, she says. “If you notice the folks who go into the FIGHT building, you know some of them would not be welcome on a college campus,” she said, which is where the others are.
Adams notes that the FIGHT library serves not only AIDS patients but also the gay, lesbian and transgender population — and, of course, everyone else. The library opens its computer lab to its constituency.
1233 Locust Street, second floor.Monday and Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.215-985-4851Free
2. Philadelphia Museum of Art Library
At the Philadelphia Museum of Art Library, I found publications by my college classmate Clara Bargellini, Italian born, Philadelphia raised, Mexican by choice and marriage. Having earned a Ph.D. in Italian art, she moved to Mexico and taught at a university, which wanted her to teach Mexican art. So she learned that, too.
Perelman Building2525 Pennsylvania Ave.Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.Saturdays from mid-September until mid-May215-684-7650Free if you ask the guard for a research pass.
3. Jenkins Law Library
Every Philadelphia lawyer knows the Jenkins Law Library, but its collections are available to the rest of us, too. To learn about legal ethics, current judicial cases or campaign finance, non-attorneys can use the library for only $5 a day, including an hour on the computer. Want to represent yourself in a court of law? Go to Jenkins without passing Go.
Jenkins is one of 1,600 members of the American Association of Law Libraries. What’s great about Jenkins, says Adams, is its staff of “great reference librarians” to guide you through the legal literature.
833 Chestnut Street, 12th floor8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdaysOpen until 7 p.m. on Wednesday215-574-1500
4. Krauth Memorial Library, Lutheran Theological Seminary
The Lutheran Theological Seminary’s collection contains religious literature. Typical users are seminary faculty and students and regional clergy. It holds books from the time of Martin Luther.
7301 Germantown Ave.Hours vary with academic schedule215-248-6329.
5. Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
Want to know how to prune a fig tree, grow an avocado plant or keep their river birch from losing its leaves? Visit the library of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society online or in person. The library serves members and non-members, though only members of the horticultural organization can borrow books.
100 North 20th Street, fifth floorMonday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.215-988-8772Free
6. Penn’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library Image Collections
The image collections in the University of Pennsylvania libraries contain scads of online pictures you can watch in your jammies. One selection shows photos of performing artists that a single photographer, Allen J. Winigrad, shot between 1973 and 1989. Find Van Cliburn, Edgar “Charlie McCarthy” Bergen and Henry “Pink Panther” Mancini here.
Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library CenterLocust Walk between 34th and 36th streetsHours vary with academic schedule215-898-7088.
7. Philadelphia University’s Paul J. Gutman Library
Since Philadelphia University grew from the 130-year-old Philadelphia Textile School, you may not be surprised to find a stunning reference library on the history of textiles. Since the website lists holdings without linking to them, a personal visit may be in order.
The Arlen Specter Center for Public Policy has a public exhibit her right now called Single Bullet: Arlen Specter and the Warren Commission Investigation of the JFK Assassination — weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through April 11.
4201 Henry Avenue (at the corner of W. School House Lane)Hours vary with academic schedule215-951-2840