The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Since the Free Library of Philadelphia Walnut Street West Branch closed the location pictured above in 1996, the library has operated in a smaller space across the street. [Caroline New/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

Libraries on Penn's campus will soon be getting a run for their money as the Free Library of Philadelphia near 40th and Walnut streets enters a new stage of development. The Walnut Street West Branch of the Free Library has finished the demolition stage of its renovation and is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2004. The goal of the renovation is to restore the beauty of the building, and to preserve some of the historic aspects of the site. Real Estate group Buell Kratzer Powell Ltd. is managing the renovations. The library, which initially opened in 1906, has been closed since 1996 when it became evident that its building could no longer function without certain necessary repairs. It has been located in a smaller space on the the 3900 block of Walnut donated by the University since 1998. The Walnut Street West Branch was the first of 30 libraries built in Philadelphia with money provided by an Andrew Carnegie grant. Judy Harvey, the area administrator for West Philadelphia's libraries, emphasized that this is not the first renovation the library has ever had. "In the 1950s they changed the entrance to modernize it, and put neon everywhere. It never really worked," she said. The current project is entirely different. Physical changes are being made inside the building to allow for more meeting space and the addition of 40,000 items to the already existing collection of between 40,000 to 60,000 items. The facade changes, however, are not about modernization. Harvey raved about what has been done even at this fairly early stage. The ceiling beams have been exposed and have been power sprayed with crushed walnuts. "It's like a cathedral in there!" she said. Allison Freyermuth, the branch manager, is also excited about the expansion of her collection and programming space. Even now, despite its diminutive size in its present location across the street, Walnut West is one of the four busiest libraries in West Philadelphia. Currently the branch holds as many events as it can. On Jan. 23 the Penn community service group Circle K will be holding a "Magic Circle Storytime" program for children. When the renovation is finished, things will get even better. "We'll have meeting room -- as it goes now I can't have anything really big or elaborate because we don't have the space for that," Freyermuth said. The library as it stands services neighborhood residents as well as students from nearby universities. "The population is a virtual United Nations over there and it's not expected to change, just increase," Harvey emphasized. Freyermuth explained that one nice thing about the library is that local students do frequent the Walnut West branch. "They come here a lot more for reading for pleasure and then go to their school library for work," she said.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.