Free Library of Philadelphia
Summer Reading Summer Reading Kick-Off at Central - June, 2003
Overheard in the lobby, from a mom with two kids in a stroller:
“ And you know what? This is such a beautiful building that if we get lost, it won’t matter at all.”

Overheard in the Rare Book Department’s elegant Elkins Room, from a young Harry Potter fan:

“ Oooo, it’s the Gryffindor Common Room!”
Philadelphia-area residents increasingly flock to Central. Some come for Central’s hundreds of programs and meetings each year, including:
  • Monday Poets, where known and unknown poets share their work;

  • Café for the Mind, on Tuesdays, where Community College faculty members present their special interests;

  • Workplace Wednesdays, where job-seekers learn about techniques and resources;

  • Free Library of Philadelphia Lectures, our flagship author series, generally on Thursdays;

  • Sundays on Stage - multi-cultural programs for children, adults, and families, presented by the Philadelphia City Institute Board of Managers.
This year, 85 authors spoke to 19,000 listeners in various Central Library series, including the Free Library of Philadelphia Lectures, Cool Books Hot Topics, the Field Family Teen Author Series, an African American Writers series, and Super Science Fiction.
Most visitors come for the collections - and the expertise of librarians.
  • After a fruitless day in her local university library, a graduate student came to Central’s Government Publications Department and found what she needed within five minutes. She made a gift to the Library in gratitude for help from that department’s staff.

  • A recently published book contains this acknowledgment: “Toby Harke, of the Free Library of Philadelphia [in the Education, Philosophy and Religion Department], has shown herself a model research librarian, wonderfully gifted in tracking down the remote and forgotten."

But Central also visits Philadelphians - through our very busy web site, and in other ways. For example:

Central Visits Chart
  • This year, “Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection” - recordings of neglected orchestral music performed using materials from Central - were heard the first Saturday of each month at 5:00 p.m. over public radio station WRTI. The Fleisher Collection is the world’s largest lending library of orchestral parts and scores. The radio series - co-hosted by Kile Smith, curator of the collection - will be extended through the 2003-2004 season.

Now all eyes turn to the coming renovation and expansion of Central, which will ease the building’s severe overcrowding and provide space, infrastructure, and equipment adequate to serve all Philadelphians as the hub of a 21st-century urban library system.

Collections Statistics
FY 2003
FY 2002
*Catalogued books
2,971,532 2,985,844
Audio materials
Government documents
Video cassettes
Journal, magazine, and newspaper titles

*This category includes paperback books and pamphlets.

Minor year-to-year declines are the result of various factors, such as the transition of some materials from print to electronic format, the weeding of items no longer appropriate, and substantial increases in the cost of materials.

Selected branches have collections in Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Laotian, Russian, Polish, Korean, Arabic, and/or Cambodian.