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


PHILADELPHIA, October 1, 2017—The Free Library of Philadelphia is honored to recently have been awarded grants totaling more than $1.3 million from the William Penn Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The William Penn Foundation is supporting two new initiatives: Read, Baby, Read—a project to bolster the Library’s infant and young toddler spaces and programming—and Library Play Terrains—outdoor learning spaces that foster active play and informal learning. IMLS has awarded the Library a grant through its Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, which supports professional development for librarians to better serve the public.

William Penn Foundation has awarded nearly $590,000 for the Read, Baby, Read program, which aims to lay the foundation for expanding infant spaces and services at neighborhood libraries. Guided by research showing that a child’s first years of life impact long-range health, literacy, and other outcomes, Read, Baby, Read will support parents in meeting the specific social, intellectual, physical, and emotional developmental needs of infants. The initiative aligns with the Library’s strategic goals to help children be school-ready and to encourage family-based literacy. The grant funds will support enhanced children’s spaces that meet the needs of babies, including soft surfaces for tummy time and sensory experiences; regular programming for infants and their parents; and parent workshops to connect families with resources and information. The Library will also create take-home play kits with toys, board books, and other infant gear, which will be available for extended loan periods. Supporting the program’s work will be an Early Childhood Trainer/Curriculum Developer and Neighborhood Ambassadors. Staff will pilot the program over two years at Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library and Richmond Library, both of which serve large populations of young children in low-income families.

The Library has also received a grant for over $235,000 from the William Penn Foundation in support of Library Play Terrains, outdoor learning spaces that will create and activate learning. These new spaces will repurpose the pedestrian entrances at Cecil B. Moore Library and Kingsessing Library as civic and learning spaces, adding green space and incorporating specific elements that promote active play and encourage literacy. The spaces will emphasize environmental themes, using the watershed assets near each library—the East Park Reservoir near Cecil B. Moore and the Schuylkill River and Bartram’s Garden near Kingsessing. Community input helped shape the grant proposal, and the project will be done in partnership with Studio Ludo, a play-focused nonprofit that is currently constructing indoor Playspaces at three neighborhood libraries; Interpret Green and Roofmeadow are also consulting on the project.

The IMLS Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program has granted the Library nearly $480,000 for the continuing education project Skills for Community-Centered Librarianship, which aims to build the community-engagement capacity of Library staff. To help staff better meet the changing learning and information needs of 21st-century library users, this program will develop a comprehensive training curriculum and webinar series that focus on assessing community needs, developing strategic collaborations, and piloting and managing new kinds of programs. The curriculum will also be tested in the Shippensburg Public Library, in rural Pennsylvania, to help ensure it is adaptable to other contexts. The three-year grant will allow the Free Library to train 250 to 300 public-library professionals.

“We are very excited about the possibilities for learning and growth these grants make possible,” said Free Library President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon. “Our staff believes all children are born to read, and libraries must innovate to support contemporary learning needs and to serve as civic hubs that bind neighborhoods together. We are so grateful to William Penn and IMLS for supporting us in this effort.”

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About the Free Library of Philadelphia
The Free Library of Philadelphia system, with 54 locations and the Rosenbach, 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, including neighborhood Hotspots; and rich special collections, including  those at Parkway Central Library and at the Rosenbach. With more than 6 million in-person visits and millions more online annually, the Free Library and the Rosenbach are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.

About the William Penn Foundation
The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income families, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances civic life, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. In partnership with others, the Foundation works to advance opportunity, ensure sustainability, and enable effective solutions. Since inception, the Foundation has made nearly 10,000 grants totaling over $1.6 billion.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's approximately 120,000 libraries and 35,000 museums and related organizations. 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 us 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