For Release: immiediately
Department of External Affairs
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710
FAX (215) 567-7850
Contact: Communications and Development
For Release: immiediately
Contact: Communications and Development

The Fee Library of Philadelphia Celebrates the Grand Reopening of the Newly Renovated Walnut Street West Branch

The Community Is Invited to an Afternoon of Fun and "Edutainment"

Philadelphia, PA – September 22, 2004 - The Walnut Street West Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, 201 South 40th Street at Walnut, will open its doors to the community on Saturday, October 2, 2004, from 1 to 4 p.m.

To mark the grand reopening celebration, the public is invited to join City officials at 1 p.m for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by an afternoon of fun and activities for all. Visitors will have the opportunity to make their own bookmarks, register for a library card, tour the new facility, see state-of-the-art computer demonstrations, try the new self-checkout system, interact with musicians and performers while enjoying refreshments and much more.

Built in 1906, Walnut West was the first of 30 libraries built in Philadelphia thanks to a generous Andrew Carnegie grant. The library was considered an architectural wonder that graced the corner of 40th and Walnut Streets.

The renovation has been successful in preserving some of the historical aspects of the building, while introducing new technology and meeting space. The entrance has been returned to its original location on 40th Street. The basement was filled with porous materials mixed with extra strength concrete slurry to solve the water problem. Oak ceiling beams were exposed and burnished with a power spray of crushed walnut shells. The building is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council as part of the LEED project, based on the use of high-recycled contact materials and special paints and windows. The newly renovated library reflects eight years of planning and community advocacy. Financial support came from the City of Philadelphia, thanks especially to the leadership of Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and generous contributions from the University of Pennsylvania, WACHOVIA Bank, and Friends of Walnut Street West, led by President Beth Ann Johnson. Checkpoint Systems Inc., of Thoroughfare, NJ, founded by Ted Wolf, made a generous donation to the branch. The Intelligent Library System (ILS), driven by next generation Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology, allows customers to check out materials on their own using three self-service kiosks located at the circulation desk. The revolutionary RFID system is designed to enhance the library experience for both customers and staff. The system dramatically speeds up the library checkout and return process, protects items from unauthorized removal from the library and reduces materials handling time by as much as 75%. The branch is the first in the Philadelphia Library system to get this technology.

Enhancing the beauty of the branch is a fresco titled Natural Light, by Philadelphia Mural Artist Paul Santoleri. The fresco depicts scenes from the West Philadelphia area. The fresco is an original artwork commissioned by the City of Philadelphia under the Percent for Art Program, whose mission is to enliven public spaces by incorporating exceptional works of art into City construction projects.

The interior of the branch includes a large meeting room on the first floor, 60,000 books and materials for circulation, an added mezzanine floor with a reading room and a special area for preschoolers. In addition, there are eight public computers with internet access as well as a designated computer with ACCESS Technology for the blind and visually impaired. See attached list for more branch improvements.

The branch renovation was supervised through the Capital Program Office of the City of Philadelphia; the architect of record is Buell Kratzer Powell and Intech Construction was the general contractor.

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Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850