Philbrick Hall Reopens to Public after Extensive Renovation

By Michelle S. RSS Thu, March 1, 2012

After nine months of restoration work, Philbrick Hall at Parkway Central Library reopened today! Made possible by the Annenberg Foundation, the renovation of Philbrick Hall opened up 2,500 square feet of previously inaccessible space to the public, including the Hall’s third floor mezzanine. The renovation features new seating, shelving, and window treatments; refurbished, original terrazzo floors; a restored, intricate plaster ceiling; and energy-efficient new lighting--all designed by Moshe Safdie Associates--allowing the historic grandeur of the Beaux-Arts room to shine through. At the same time, Philbrick Hall has been fully outfitted with several modern features, like plenty of new computers and video walls that display information about upcoming programs and other Library news.

In addition to the restoration of the space, 4,400 new items have been added to the already-extensive collections of contemporary fiction, non-fiction, and DVDs housed in Philbrick Hall--with more materials to be added in the coming weeks! The Hall is also home to the Parkway Central Library’s first-ever Teen Center for young adult customers. The 1,000-square-foot space features special lounge seating, work spaces for completing homework and other projects, and a selection of both Macs and PCs.

The renovation of Philbrick Hall was part of “Building Inspiration,” the plans to enhance and expand Parkway Central Library. “Building Inspiration” marks the first time in its 87-year history that the Beaux-Arts building has been extensively renovated. Last summer, the exterior of Parkway Central was refurbished and Shakespeare Park was revitalized as part of the project, with support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development.

Beginning this June, the Free Library will begin the next phase of “Building Inspiration,” which focuses on converting staff and storage space at Parkway Central into public areas. The fourth floor will be extensively renovated and a professional-grade kitchen installed; conservation areas and public viewing spaces in the Rare Book Department will be enhanced; a modern, compact shelving system will replace the antiquated stacks system, opening up thousands of square footage to the public; and an exciting new public Common will be constructed, enabling ideas, shared learning, creativity, and opportunity to flourish in an open and unstructured environment. In all, more than 20,000 square feet of previously inaccessible space will be opened to the public during the next phase of the project.

As work moves forward at Parkway Central Library to restore and enhance this historic building, you can always get the latest progress updates on our renovations page!

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Can't wait to come in to see this wonderful new space and all it cntains. Congratulations!
Meredith Sonderskov - Philadelphia
Thursday, March 1, 2012

I am happy for Philadelphia library patrons and visitors. I'm Home grown and travel quite a bit often visiting libraries in other states. I was most impressed with Wisconsin's state of the art format and longed for its bright open spaced layout back at home. I love books and find respite in its covers and learning that my home library has made this leap towards this grand restoration and of its plans for more contemporary reading spaces geared towards our youth is most encouraging. I hope it attracts young people far and wide and welcomes our visitors to our great city warmly. I love the picture and can't wait to get home and see the wonderful things happening at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Go Philly!
kim corbin - germantown
Thursday, March 1, 2012

This is great news for Philadelphians!
Lisa Mayo - West Philly
Thursday, March 1, 2012

I haven't seen the restored Philbrick Hall yet. I'm looking forward to seeing it. In addition to the physical renovations of the library building, it would be desireable to make the area outside of the library safer & friendlier. Also, I am always saddened that so many books & DVDs are stolen and unavailable. And finally, the library's collection of books & DVDs needs upgrading. Why doesn't the library purchase more DVDs & audios of The Teaching Company/Great Courses? I'd love to be able to borrow books, DVDs, & music digitally on my computer. I haven't been able to do that through my Kindle.
Rachel Munafo - Philadelphia
Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rachel, thanks for your comments. You can download ebooks to your Kindle via the Download Media section of our website (Click on the pink "Download Media" button on the homepage, or visit You can also download audiobooks, movies, and music through that page as well! And as part of the restoration of Philbrick Hall, we have added 4,400 new books and DVDs to our collections, with more to be added in the coming weeks! I'll pass along your title suggestions to our Materials Department. Best, Michelle - Free Library
Thursday, March 1, 2012

The new space is fabulous. Thanks to all involved with the renovation, from the administrators and funders to the workers who laid the floor and installed the shelving. I admire the bright, open, forward-looking atmosphere in the lovely old room. I hope Philadlephians will treat it nicely and that it lives up to its potential to be a peaceful oasis. I love public libraries and public parks. This is nice progress when all we hear about is the lack of resources and the deterioration of our infrastructure.
Grateful reader - Bella Vista
Thursday, March 1, 2012

I went to collect a book that came for me from the Inter-library-loan when I was directed to Philbrick Hall which was just opened today. Isn't it beautiful,spacious and full of light! I feel blessed to have such facility available to me.Congratulations to all who make this precious gift possible. Grateful reader-Philadelphia.
adeola james - Center City, Philadelphia
Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wow, it looks fantastic. I've been peering through the "curtains," so to speak, on my-every-Saturday-morning visits, anxiously awaiting for this to happen. Its closure has seriously affected my book life. My big question - which I'll find the answer to tomorrow, I guess - is whether I can get access to the stacks again, something I've seriously missed, along with access to the McNaughton books which I've had to get from other branches. First time in my life I've ever been 138th on the wait list! Yippee, this is so exciting. Judy Foley - Spring Garden
Judy Foley - Spring Garden
Friday, March 2, 2012

Just when I think I couldn't love and value the Free Library system more, something new and wonderful appears. I visit the Central Library several times a month, and admire the way the smooth and efficient way the staff has worked around the Philbrick Hall renovation. Congratulations on everyone's hard work, and I can't wait to take a peek this weekend.
Yvonne - Center City Philadelphia
Friday, March 2, 2012

I can't wait to come see the new renovations!!! I definitely will check out the teen section on my next visit! I can't wait!
Veronika - West Philly
Monday, March 5, 2012

The renovated space is beautiful; full of light and places to sit down. Thank you to everyone responsible for this wonderful upgrade. I hope that the branches will share in the renovations and upgrades, given that they serve children and their families who often can't get to the main branch.
Bonni - Philadelphia
Monday, March 5, 2012

While I'm happy about the restoration of Philbrick Hall, I was disappointed to learn (from other sources) that in order to open up all this new space, books previously available on open shelves will now be in closed stacks and available only by request. I expect there are others like me who like to browse and who choose books by taking a look inside.
book browser - Mt. Airy
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Thanks for your comment, book browser. No public materials from Philbrick Hall have been moved to a closed storage system. In fact, we opened the third floor mezzanine of Philbrick Hall to the public for browsing and added 4,400 new materials to the collection (with more to come)! You're still able to browse all of the fiction, non-fiction, and DVDs in Philbrick Hall as before. Michelle - Free Library
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Although I am excited to hear about the renovations and upcoming changes, I cannot help but wonder where the money is coming from. The Lucien Blackwell library is the only literary resource in our neighborhood and, as we all know, experienced cutbacks in both hours and days. In theory kids can take the bus or subway to a nearby library with normal hours; anyone who is from my neighborhood knows this is improbable. With a fatal shooting occuring at the local community center in 2010 (Cobbs Creek) the library was one of the last free places for kids to go after school. As a child the library saved my life in more ways than I can count. I urge you to consider opening the library 7 days a week in poor, struggling areas in Philadelphia. I have always taken pride in the excellent library system in Philly and donate whenever possible. Good luck and keep up the good work! I hope you consider my comments.
Trudie Ragout - west philly
Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thank you for your comments, Trudie. The renovation of Parkway Central’s Philbrick Hall was made possible by a one-time generous grant from the Annenberg Foundation. While our current operating budget only allows us to provide seven day service in two locations, we greatly appreciate your feedback on the importance of the Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library. Our challenge is getting an increase in our operating budget from the City of Philadelphia, and it would be truly helpful if you would write your council person about this issue. We would *very much* like to increase our hours at all Free Library locations, but that would require an increase in our City operating budget. We will absolutely pass along your comments to the appropriate individuals. Thanks again - Michelle, Free Library
Friday, March 9, 2012

The new Philbrick Hall is absolutely beautiful! Congratulations! That said, however, I wish more attention had been paid to user-friendliness with respect to shelving. Especially for those of us whose backs and eyes aren't what they used to be, the new low shelving for the new books and DVDs means constantly bending over while browsing, resulting in a literal pain. I can imagine it's hard on the people who do the shelving as well. Also, now the entire alphabet of regular fiction is inaccessible for browsing to those who have difficulty with stairs instead of just the second half as it used to be. A for appearance, C for user-friendliness.
Cynthia - East Falls
Saturday, March 10, 2012

P.S. I do appreciate the new seating, as well.
Cynthia - East Falls
Saturday, March 10, 2012

I was in Philbrick Hall recently and it is really NICE! I used to live in a much smaller city and our little library pales in comparison. I'll be a regular customer,
James - South Philly
Tuesday, December 3, 2013

This is great news. Hope there are some photos to see.
foot pain philadelphia - philadelphia
Friday, February 19, 2016