South Philadelphia Branch of the Free Library
Echo Phillips, Branch Manager (215)-685-1866 PhillipsEC@freelibrary.org
Brook Freeman (he/him), Cluster Leader, South Philadelphia Cluster (215)-686-5310
The South Philadelphia Branch of the Free Library is one of five local libraries to be extensively remodeled and repurposed around community needs as part of the Pilot 21st Century Libraries initiative. It is located on the ground floor of a building that also houses a Health Center and the South Philadelphia site of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). A Community Recreation Center is directly behind this building. All four organizations coordinate their programs and outreach.
Because the library has a good-sized teaching / meeting space and its main room can be transformed into a large meeting space (all the bookshelves are on rollers,) the calendar is chock full of programs and events sponsored by the cooperating organizations and other community groups. Citizenship Classes, especially for Chinese immigrants, have resulted in 60 people becoming new American citizens. There are music and movement classes for toddlers, more traditional story hours, a knitting group, an annual celebration organized by the Mexican consulate (called Police Navidad bringing citizens and police together at Christmastime,) tax preparation help, jewelry making, crafts, cooking classes, ESL classes, books and resources in several languages, and much more. Each program is a form of peace-making.
The library serves as a safe haven for the most vulnerable in the community. CHOP and the Archdiocese supply lunches for school age children. Residents of nearby shelters are able to stay in the library during the day when they are not allowed in the shelters, escaping heat or cold. They are welcomed and afforded restroom use, computer access, and other services provided by the library and health center. The library is supplied with Narcan doses, and recently saved a life by administering NarCan to a dying addict. (CHOP had trained the library staff in its use.) Over 100 hygiene kits have been distributed to those who need them.
Nutrition and cooking classes are very popular, creating community among participants. They learn how to shop with health and economy in mind, how to cook without oil, and how to plan tasty meals. Each class is “make and take” so people go home with a wonderful dish to share.
The library’s efforts meet all the requirements for recognition as a Zone of Peace. They are unique, creative, exemplary, and they address several root causes of violence.