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


The Free Library of Philadelphia is honored to have been awarded a Sparks! Ignition Grant for Libraries to support its pilot program Free Library of Philadelphia Prison Services: Expanding Opportunities for Incarcerated Parents and Their Families at Neighborhood Libraries. This $25,000 grant—part of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Leadership Grants for Libraries program—will broaden the Free Library’s relationship with the Philadelphia Prison System (PPS) to incorporate two new services for inmates, returning citizens, their children, and families.


The first part of the FLP Prison Services project will connect families separated by incarceration through Stories Alive, a family televisiting and shared-reading program hosted in neighborhood libraries close to participants’ homes. Beginning in February, the Free Library will offer 10 months of Saturday family reading and televisiting services—face-to-face live videoconferencing between inmates in prison and their children and families, who will access the service in a neighborhood library.


The second part of this project will provide returning citizens who participated in the Stories Alive or prison-library programs with a temporary library card and re-entry resource packet on the day of their release, making the full range of Library resources immediately accessible. The packet will include information on all of the resources the Free Library has to offer—including job search support and free computer access—as well as other important transitional resources, including information about housing, health, transportation, addiction, workforce, and technology.


“We are so proud to be leading this effort to use public libraries to meet the needs of incarcerated parents, returning citizens, and their children and families,” says Siobhan A. Reardon, President and Director. “This grant enables the Free Library to connect them to critical resources at a critical time.”


This one-year pilot program draws on the success of the Prison Library Service established by librarian Titus Moolathara, who helped create a temporary library at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. This pilot library was enormously successful—improving inmate reading levels and reducing the participants’ number of verbal and physical incidents. As a result, PPS approved the creation of the FLP Prison Library Service, which currently consists of eight permanent libraries within two prisons, including at Riverside Correctional Facility, a women’s facility. Trained inmates now run these libraries with minimal Free Library oversight. The Prison Library Service has become a bridge for inmates between incarceration and release by increasing learning opportunities and connecting inmates with a range of Library resources.


The Library was one of 20 grantees awarded a Sparks! Ignition Grant, which provide opportunities to expand and test the boundaries of library and archive services and practices. Sparks Grants support the deployment, testing, and evaluation of promising and groundbreaking new tools, products, services, or organizational practices.


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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 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.


The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter.


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