For Release: Immediately
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: Immediately
Contact: Communications and Development


Washington, DC – On June 25, 2015, the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) presented the Free Library of Philadelphia with a 2015 Top Innovator award as part of ULC’s Sixth Annual Innovations Initiative.


Each year, the Urban Libraries Council recognizes a small number of libraries for their work in developing leading-edge programs that significantly benefit local residents and the community.

The Free Library has received the Top Innovator award in the Organizational Change and Strategic Management category for its newly-created Strategic Initiatives Department (STR).


In recognition of the shifting dynamics of library services and need for better use of statistics, the Free Library created the Strategic Initiatives Department to serve as steward of the Library’s strategic plan, in-house data manager, and launching point for new and innovative programming.


STR works to analyze current Library initiatives to determine value and fit with the strategic plan and to evaluate new ideas and proposed library services. The purpose of this work is to continually reassess the freshness and viability of the Library’s strategic direction, while also ensuring it is meeting customer needs and demands. In addition to helping the Library better evaluate and grow its current programs and services, STR has also increased staff-generated ideas around new and innovative programming. As a result, the Library has supported or implemented initiatives around expanded prison library services, autism, family literacy, New Americans, and health services.


The Urban Library Council’s Top Innovator Award highlighted the advances this initiative has made in qualitative and quantitative approaches to measuring success, and its use of data, outcomes measurement, and community input for strategic planning.


“The Strategic Initiatives Department at the Free Library leads the way in our effort to be a hatchery of innovation,” says Siobhan A. Reardon, President and Director. “This award recognizes the Free Library’s strategic and innovative efforts to advance literacy, guide learning, and inspire curiosity across our city.”


Cities and counties across North America are challenged by tough social issues that threaten individual, family, and community prosperity and health. Public libraries serve a significant role in addressing these issues from education and lifelong learning, workforce development, public safety and health to building stronger neighborhoods. The ULC Innovations Initiative recognizes those libraries that are dramatically enhancing outcomes with their innovative programs, services and operations.


The Free Library received the award at a special ceremony held at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California. Special guest Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, was on-hand to applaud the Free Library of Philadelphia’s excellence.


“The Free Library of Philadelphia is recognized as one of the leading public libraries in North America,” said ULC President and CEO Susan Benton. “While it continuously innovates and changes its programs and services to meet the changing needs of residents and the community, the Free Library of Philadelphia maintains a strong set of values that ensures it remains one of the most trusted public entities. Philadelphia can be very proud of its library.”


All ULC Innovations can be viewed at



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The 61-location Free Library of Philadelphia system advances literacy, guides learning, and inspires curiosity with millions of digital and physical materials; 25,000 yearly programs and workshops; free public computers and extensive Wi-Fi; and rich special collections, including  those at Parkway Central Library and at The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia. With more than 6 million in-person visitors and millions more online visits annually, the Free Library and the Rosenbach are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.



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