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 Lynda.com
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