Today Eyes on the Street continues our Philly Love Notes collaboration with this appreciation of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Parkway Central Branch (among others) for its architectural splendor, vast and fabulous collection, and free author events.
- Favorite Spot: Free Library of Philadelphia
- Neighborhood: Parkway Museums District (and all over, thanks to 50 branches)
- Address: 20th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway
- I am: I’m a Downingtown-bred, Penn State-educated, and Philly-loving word nerd who works for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, known to you and yours as Visit Philly. Also, I’m the occasional writer of those other Philly love letters.
- Years in Philly: 1 in Manayunk (don’t we all?) and 5 in Center City.
- Current Home: Fitler Square or Graduate Hospital, depending who you ask.
It’s only fitting that I write my love note to the city’s written-word command center: the Free Library of Philadelphia. Do you know that not everyone has access to free books? Literary lameness. The Free Library’s massive collection is an embarrassment of riches. Adventure, romance, intrigue, history, you name it. The shelves are packed and ready to be picked over. Plus, card-carrying members can go beyond the millions (billions?) of pages, thanks to collections of CDs, DVDs and even e-readers (Philly’s librarians are more with it than I am).
I certainly exercise the traditional check-out-and-return library privileges, but we Philadelphians can take advantage of so much more. First off, the Beaux Arts building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway meets the standard of architectural excellence of Philadelphia’s cultural highway, which is anchored by the breathtaking Philadelphia Museum of Art and home to the new Barnes Foundation.
After I’m finished gawking from the outside, I step through the Central Library branch turnstile to uncover the indoor gems, including a Rare Book Department that can send any bibliophile into OMG! overload. Think medieval manuscripts, Pennsylvania German fraktur and Dickens’ stuffed pet raven—the one that inspired Poe’s poem—all of which may be part of the department’s weekday tours.
The Library also hosts rotating (and again, free) exhibits, and it plays an active role in the community, with offerings ranging from homework help to a street fair on the Parkway. Fulfilling a sort of word nerd nightlife, the Free Library hosts regular author readings and discussions, and the book-signing portion afterwards makes for thoughtful gift-giving. Recent guests have included Jonathan Safran Foer, Jodi Picoult, Alexandra Fuller, John Irving, and Jennifer Weiner. Crossed some people off my holiday list with that group.
Books, events, Wi-Fi and a grand space that’s the opposite of my apartment and cubicle. I’m in love.
Philly Love Notes is a collection of reminders. There is too much in the city that is forgotten or overlooked. Philly Love Notes seeks to rediscover those places — to remind the city, and us, that it is loved. Want to share your favorite spot? Drop Philly Love Notes an email with your idea.
Eyes on the Street has teamed up with Philly Love Notes to feature especially plannerdly love notes about places in Philly on this blog. So far we’ve shared love notes about bikes at Rittenhouse Square, a walk through Ed Bacon’s greenways, a twofer about Penn Treaty Park, Drexel Park, Wayne Mills, where the Reading Viaduct meets Noble Street, and stoop culture.
This piece originally appeared on Philly Love Notes on November 5, 2012.