Libraries: The Crown Jewel of a Community

I’ve long referred to libraries as the crown jewel of a community. My wife and I have said that one of the criteria we will use if we decide to relocate is what the local library is like.

We are blessed to have a wonderful local library – Radnor Memorial Library – that offers so much more than books, DVDs, and CDs. There are ongoing events such as speakers and storytimes, users can reserve meeting rooms and computers, and there are museum passes to more than two dozen local museums. All of these services are provided at no cost. There is also an annual 5K run to raise money for the library, known as Elves for the Shelves.

The power of a library really hit home when I read a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Before I get to that, here is some background on the Free Library of Philadelphia, courtesy of Wikipedia:

…the Free Library of Philadelphia system, comprising 54 neighborhood library locations and the Rosenbach, advances literacy, guides learning, and inspires curiosity with millions of digital and physical materials. With more than 6 million in-person visits and millions more online annually, the Free Library and the Rosenbach are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.

The Free Library of Philadelphia hosts more than 25,000 events each year, including job-search workshops, small business programming, English as a Second Language conversation groups, and computer classes. The Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center, which opened in the spring of 2014 at the Parkway Central Library, offers culinary classes for children, teens, families, and adults to teach literacy skills through cooking as well as math, chemistry, nutrition, and health. The Library hosts a renowned Author Events Series, which brings more than 100 writers, politicians, scientists, researchers, and musicians to the Free Library annually. The Library also hosts the citywide One Book, One Philadelphia program, which encourages all Philadelphians to read and discuss the same book, fostering community and connection; the Summer Reading program, which engages some 50,000 Philadelphia school children each summer; and the Literacy Enrichment After-school Program (LEAP). In addition, the Free Library hosts months-long celebrations of literary milestones, from the birthdays of influential writers like Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare to the publication anniversaries of groundbreaking titles like Pride and Prejudice and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

The Free Library also manages READ by 4th, a citywide effort of public and private organizations aiming to significantly increase the number of students in Philadelphia entering the 4th grade at reading level by 2020.

And from the Philadelphia Inquirer article, here is a sample of all of the items that you can borrow, besides books:

  • a variety of skill-themed backpacks or kits are available at branches across the city — these are backpacks and bags filled with items around a specific activity or skill. These include backpacks such as home gym kits, birding and hiking backpacks, Read, Baby, Read backpacks, Bus Busy backpacks to keep schoolchildren occupied, and crafting kits.
  • jigsaw puzzles
  • musical instruments, including electric and acoustic guitars, a variety of drums, amps, keyboards, violins, mandolins, and banjos.
  • cake pans
  • health equipment, such as blood pressure monitors or food scales.
  • ties for job interviews

There are a variety of Learning and professional development resources

  • learn a language
  • help finding a job (resume review, mock interviews)
  • study for school and standardized tests
  • skills for work, through sites like

There are also computers and wifi available.

The cost of all of these resources?


Is there a better deal anywhere in the country, other than at your local library?

*image from Visit Philly


83 thoughts on “Libraries: The Crown Jewel of a Community

    1. I love the library jigsaw puzzle exchanges….and during pandemic (after things opened back up) more and more libraries started doing them. My son (who has autism) will only do a 1000 piece puzzle ONE time, so thrift stores and libraries are great places to find and donate good puzzles… I’ve lost count of how many puzzles we’ve done during the pandemic but I especially like the White Mountain Nostalgia puzzles. So fun and not too hard. Brings back so many fond memories of whatever the focus is: movies seen, books read, places visited, toys played with, foods eaten, roads travelled, hobbies, decade’s historical events, Civil War, Presidents, Aviation history, stamps, etc.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I will have to check out those White Mountain puzzles – they sound terrific. Although I have to admit it would drive me a bit crazy if a couple of pieces were missing… 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Usually all 1000 pieces are there, even when we buy used puzzles… part of the fun is the suspense if they’re all there … it is a bummer if an edge piece is missing because then the suspense is over early 🙂

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      3. we do the edges not “first” but “early” on in the process 🙂 My son will usually do a swath of it by the brightest color first while I collect all the edge pieces….

        sometimes I feel like every time we tear apart a finished puzzle and put it back in the box to donate back to the thrift store that we’re like the prisoners who are assigned to dig holes and then fill them back up. We finish one, take a photo, enjoy it a couple days, then break it up and start a new one.

        Has me contemplating “what is the meaning of life anyway if this is how we spend so much of our time?”

        ESPECIALLY if the pandemic goes on “forever” (but mostly I try not to think about that)

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I like doing the edges first, and if along the way we happen along a couple of pieces that go together, then I’ll do those. I guess I do the outside first to see how much room I’ll need!

        I guess the joy you and your son get is in the process and working together, not necessarily in the end product.

        Let’s hope this pandemic does not go on forever…

        Liked by 1 person

  1. On the whole, the local libraries in South Africa are now very poor and have no stock of new books. I have my own library which is better than our local one, but I am fortunate. Many people don’t get to enjoy books and reading as they just aren’t available to them.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jim, you have done a wonderful job of highlighting why local libraries are so important to our society and culture. Sometimes we forget that libraries offer so much more than just books. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. When we first moved to Gettysburg, the library is where we found community. For years, my dream job was to become the CFO. Now I have that job, and I couldn’t be more proud to support what I see as one of the most important institutions in town.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Libraries have enriched my life immensely – in so many ways. They are a joy in my life. I miss the in-person events, and I do hope someday we will be able to have them again.

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    1. thanks, John. Our library has instituted a policy where you can take a book out and it automatically renews on the due date, unless there is a request for it. it is a nice service…


  5. I so agree with the importance of the library! About five years ago, I chose my new apartment based in part on the library being located in the Square. I can walk there in just a few minutes. They’re building a new library, which will move it several blocks farther away. I should still be able to walk, assuming they get it finished in the next few years:)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m glad to know my wife and I aren’t the only ones who considered proximity to a library as a consideration on where to live. I’m glad your new library is not moving too far away from you…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love libraries.. such a huge supporter of them. I loved taking Charlotte to our local library while I was on my long mat leave or on weekends pre-pandemic.. miss it so much. I want her to naturally grow her love of books as I did! 😀

    Liked by 4 people

  7. A wonderful post about libraries. They truly are valuable. My kids used to carry stacks of books home from the library to read. It helped to ignite their passion for reading.
    Never knew you could get blood pressure monitors from libraries , cake pans and puzzles! You taught me something new. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. nice to hear the role your local library played in getting your kids to love reading. It is amazing what you can borrow from some libraries. There is one near us that offers toys and games for borrowing…

      Liked by 1 person

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