More than 100 years after it opened in 1919, the Kingsessing Library is getting a major overhaul.
The building was one of 30 Philadelphia libraries built with funding from Andrew Carnegie. He donated more than $40 million to fund more than 1,600 library buildings around the country.
Kingsessing, which closed in October to start the rebuilding process, is the first library of 12 to receive upgrades as part of the city’s Rebuild program. The initiative seeks to make up for years of disinvestment by fixing up parks, libraries, and rec centers using money from the city’s beverage tax program.
Mayor Jim Kenney admitted the Kingessing project won’t be done until after he leaves office, but said he’ll be proud to be welcomed back for the ribbon cutting.
The $7 million project at South 51st Street includes a top-to-bottom refurbishment.
“We’re really excited that it will be a full refresh of the building,” said Rebuild executive director Kira Strong. “New roof, new heating, new cooling, new windows, new masonry, completely new children/teen space inside, a new area outside for gathering and story circle, etc. And it’s going to complement what’s to come just across the way with the rec center shortly as well.”
City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier grew up going to the Kingsessing Library and says it’s the heart of a community, along with the neighboring recreation center.
“It’s a lifeline where community leaders host events and distribute resources that uplift and empower neighbors who have fallen on tough times,” Gauthier said.
Director of the Free Library Kelly Richards said the facility offers more than just books. It supplies computer access and other support for intellectual pursuits.
“The library is the people’s university,” Richards said. “And that’s because public libraries are one of the most important institutions in our society.”
Saturdays just got more interesting.