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 25, 2017—The Free Library of Philadelphia is excited to announce the reopening of Lillian Marrero Library, located at 601 W. Lehigh Avenue. This library has been reimagined as part of the Library’s Building Inspiration: 21st Century Libraries Initiative, a transformational project to reshape neighborhood libraries in Philadelphia to meet the changing needs of today’s library customers. Lillian Marrero will hold a grand opening celebration on Saturday, November 18, from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m.

This transformed 21st Century Library has been made entirely ADA accessible. The renovated library features warm, state-of-the-art spaces, including a vibrant Children’s Library, customized Pre-K Zone, and dedicated Teen Zone. Other enhancements include a welcoming living room space; an improved circulation desk; updated program, meeting, and study rooms; and a computer bar. In response to identified community needs, programming at Lillian Marrero Library will focus on early-childhood literacy as well as resources for new Americans—bolstered by expanded bilingual resources and enhanced workplace readiness resources. The Free Library collaborated with architect James. R. Keller, who specializes in design and planning for libraries, to reimagine this neighborhood library.

Supported by the Percent for Art Program—an initiative of the City’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy—the library will feature a piece of site-specific, commissioned artwork created by Julia Staples. Titled Revised History of the People of Fairhill, it consists of a series of black-and-white portrait photographs of community members. Set against culturally inspired background patterns, the images reflect the diverse and multigenerational library community. These timeless images pay tribute and respect to the lives and heritage of the people of Fairhill. Ms. Staples spent a significant amount of time at the library, photographing members of the community and listening to their stories.

The Building Inspiration initiative has been made possible in large part by a historic $25 million grant from the William Penn Foundation—the largest private gift ever received by the Free Library. Other essential support came from the City of Philadelphia, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. The Library is also grateful to Dale and Richard Levy and Patricia Kind, who supported innovative new spaces at Lillian Marrero Library, as well as the larger Building Inspiration initiative.

The original Lillian Marrero Library was built in 1906, using funds donated by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who committed $1.5 million in 1903 for the purpose of building more Free Library of Philadelphia locations. The white limestone Grecian-style building was once the largest library in Pennsylvania. Formerly known as the Lehigh Avenue Library, it was renamed in 2005 in honor of Lillian Marrero, a community organizer and Free Library librarian. Free Library staff is overjoyed to welcome the community back to this neighborhood hub. To learn more about the Building Inspiration initiative, visit

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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.


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