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Mayor Wilson Goode and City Council member Lucien Blackwell were featured speakers yesterday afternoon at the official, long-awaited grand reopening of the Free Library's West Philadelphia branch. The library, located at 40th and Walnut streets, opened in August after a three-year closing for asbestos cleanup and renovations. The closing was marred by delays and catastrophies, including a basement flood and vandalism. Staff members, patrons and children anxiously awaited Goode's arrival. Once he came, at noon sharp, the ceremony began with a short trumpet recital by Girls' High School senior Ouida Smith, of West Philadelphia. In his five-minute speech, Goode, a wide smile on his face, called libraries "an investment of the children, the future of the city" and said that "as long as Philadelphia has kids who can read and understand, this city has a future." The noontime re-opening ceremony ended with a traditional red-ribbon cutting, performed by Goode with help from third-grader Paul Bloor and fourth-grader Rayna Bostic, both students at the Spruce Hill Christian School. Head Librarian Sandra Viddy said that staff from Free Library branches across Philadelphia gathered together to clean up the mess left by the asbestos removal and renovations. Elliot Shelkrot, president and director of the Free Library system, said that the library received hundreds of supporting calls and letters -- proof that everyone "loves, needs, and uses" it. The 40th and Walnut streets branch, which actually opened four weeks ago, has had more than 4000 books in circulation already, and has issued more than 400 library cards.

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