Too hot? Head to the library

The Falls of Schuylkill branch of the Philadelphia Free Library (Corinne Warnshuis/WHYY, file)

The Falls of Schuylkill branch of the Philadelphia Free Library (Corinne Warnshuis/WHYY, file)

The local library might be the best place to beat the heat over the next few days. 

The Falls of Schuylkill and Andorra branches of the Philadelphia Free Library are two of the city’s 14 designated “cooling centers.” Although each has extended hours during the current heat wave, staff says residents haven’t flocked to the cool reprieves.

Stephanie Rowe is head of the Falls of Schuylkill Branch. She and her staff anticipated greater numbers over the past two weeks. “It’s been surprising,” she said. “We have actually had fewer patrons.”

Rowe attributes the recent absence of library users to the heat wave. “I suspect that people don’t think of the library as a place to cool off.”

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At the Andorra Branch, Children’s Librarian Marsha Stender has noted an increase of crowds during the day.

“The tables are [more full],” she said. “And we have a ton of seniors.” Stender hasn’t observed increased numbers in the evening, but in her experience, regulars are the ones who appreciate the later hours so that they have more time to go about their normal routines during the day. 

“We tend to get people who are very happy to see we’re open but not necessarily due to the air conditioning.”

Throughout the past two weeks, Stender has seen a lot of families coming in with kids, checking out books and videos, perhaps to entertain themselves in the coolness of their own homes.

Bruce Seibers supervises the Roxborough branch of the library on Ridge Avenue. His location is not a cooling center, yet attendance there has increased since the start of the heat wave, especially in the number of senior citizen visitors. In spite of a delayed opening due to a broken air conditioner early this week, Tuesday and Wednesday saw good crowds reading newspapers and checking books out.

All three branches have events in the upcoming weeks to attempt at distracting patrons from the heat.

Roxborough welcomes residents to join reading programs for adults, teens, and children already in session, and to bring toddlers to Preschool Storytime on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10:30 a.m.

The Andorra branch is hosting a “Bedtime Math Pajama Party” next Thursday, July 25, at 6:30 p.m. Kids, parents and guardians can show up in their pajamas to solve word problems, play games, and engage in other math-related activities.

And the Falls at Schuylkill branch welcomes Penn Museum’s “Museum on the Go” archaeology program for kids on three separate occasions during the week of July 29. On August 5, it welcomes singer Mary Roth for a world music concert.

To learn more about these events, go to

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