Favorite Spot: Free Library of Philadelphia
Neighborhood: Parkway Museums District (and all over, thanks to 50 branches)
Address: 20th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway
I am: I’m a Downingtown-bred, Penn State-educated, and Philly-loving word nerd who works for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, known to you and yours as Visit Philly. Also, I’m the occasional writer of those other Philly love letters.
Years in Philly: 1 in Manayunk (don’t we all?) and 5 in Center City.
Current Home: Fitler Square or Graduate Hospital, depending who you ask.
My love note: It’s only fitting that I write my love note to the city’s written-word command center: the Free Library of Philadelphia. Do you know that not everyone has access to free books? Literary lameness. The Free Library’s massive collection is an embarrassment of riches. Adventure, romance, intrigue, history, you name it. The shelves are packed and ready to be picked over. Plus, card-carrying members can go beyond the millions (billions?) of pages, thanks to collections of CDs, DVDs and even e-readers (Philly’s librarians are more with it than I am).
I certainly exercise the traditional check-out-and-return library privileges, but we Philadelphians can take advantage of so much more. First off, the Beaux Arts building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway meets the standard of architectural excellence of Philadelphia’s cultural highway, which is anchored by the breathtaking Philadelphia Museum of Art and home to the new Barnes Foundation.
After I’m finished gawking from the outside, I step through the Central Library branch turnstile to uncover the indoor gems, including a Rare Book Department that can send any bibliophile into OMG! overload. Think medieval manuscripts, Pennsylvania German fraktur and Dickens’ stuffed pet raven—the one that inspired Poe’s poem—all of which may be part of the department’s weekday tours.
The Library also hosts rotating (and again, free) exhibits, and it plays an active role in the community, with offerings ranging from homework help to a street fair on the Parkway. Fulfilling a sort of word nerd nightlife, the Free Library hosts regular author readings and discussions, and the book-signing portion afterwards makes for thoughtful gift-giving. Recent guests have included Jonathan Safran Foer, Jodi Picoult, Alexandra Fuller, John Irving, and Jennifer Weiner. Crossed some people off my holiday list with that group.
Books, events, Wi-Fi and a grand space that’s the opposite of my apartment and cubicle. I’m in love.