Just about every seat was filled in the meeting room of Lovett Memorial Library on Monday evening, as residents and library goers attended the branch’s final community meeting before it closes for renovations on April 1.
Representatives from the Free Library of Philadelphia estimate the library will be closed for about 18 months during the renovations that are part of the multi-million dollar 21st Century Libraries Initiative. The design plans at Lovett include a building extension to house the children’s library, an enlarged tech center, a quiet reading space and a more open floor plan for the main building.
The meeting began with a vote of approval for three zoning variances needed for the planned renovations. The variances needed include the building currently being zoned as residential, the addition of four parking spots and the building’s distance from the street.
Joe Benford of the Free Library led a discussion informing the community of the library services that will be available during the building’s closure period. At Lovett’s last community meeting, Mt. Airy resident Mara Natkins stressed the importance of keeping a presence in the community while the library is closed for renovations.
“We need to keep up the momentum that’s already been created by the Lovett Memorial Library,” Natkins said. “We need to continue to cultivate the next generation of library users.”
On Monday, Benford assured the community that plans were in the works. “I have been working diligently, but unsuccessfully to find a temporary satellite location for the library,” he said.
Library staff will be arranging visits to schools to highlight the the programs and services offered at other nearby branches including Chestnut Hill, Wadsworth, West Oak Lane and the Joseph E. Coleman Regional Branch that will still be open during Lovett’s renovations. The library will also be working with local community organizations to establish a monthly storytime and/or library program at playgrounds, bookstores, or other public sites. The Free Library Techmobile will visit the area one day a week to offer free internet and computer access and library staff will be in attendance at community meetings and fairs in order to maintain a presence.
Until the grounds are officially fenced off in the summer, a drop box for returns will be available.
Residents and community members can send concerns and questions to a dedicated email address — LibraryConstruction@freelibrary.org. The library also encourages maintaining communication through the branch’s Facebook page.
“We understand it’s going to be an inconvenience,” Benford said. “But in the long run we are hopeful and excited to see Lovett become one of the premiere neighborhood libraries in Philadelphia.”