Book Fiesta Strives to Connect Libraries and Communities in South Philadelphia!

By Mary Marques RSS Tue, October 8, 2019

"A community is healthy when relationships are felt deeply, when there are histories of trust, a shared sense of mutual belonging, norms of mutual commitments, habits of mutual assistance, and real affection from one heart and soul to another." — David Brooks, author of The Second Mountain.


Overview of South Philadelphia History
Nowadays, if you visit any of South Philadelphia's neighborhoods, you can experience the diverse and multicultural maturity of cross-cultural immigration history, with many generations settling-down in this unique area. As you walk through the small streets in South Philly, you can find the largest and oldest Italian community interwoven amongst residents who are Irish, Polish, African American, Hispanic, and Asian, all sharing transformational collective stories of culture assimilation and resistance. Historically, the Moyamensing and Southwark Indian townships were the foundation of what we know as South Philly today.

Walking Around South Philly, Today
It is amazing to see the live history of South Philly and cultural icons in this part of the city, embedded with our everyday life! You can find the Italian Market, Mummers Museum, Magic Gardens, and Keith Haring Mural—just to mention a few cultural local icons. Also, there is a big arts environment movement in this area that mirrors past local history, providing a sense of awareness of modern life and even invites residents to reflect on our hopes for future generations. This is awesome!

Walking around the historical streets of South Philly you can experience a social-cultural interaction mixing with the cultural traditions that are the hallmark of this community. Have you seen the mural from Philly-based artist Alloyius McIlwaine, located at 2nd street and Washington Avenue? Have you participated in El Carnaval de Puebla? This is a Mexican celebration, held every year that honors Mexico’s 1862 victory over French occupiers at the Battle of Puebla. The Carnavaleros dress with traditional customs, dancing around Washington Avenue and inviting the members of the community to join in this collective celebration. A healthy community is dynamic, organic, and personal, with cross-generational community stories!

                             El Carnaval de Puebla 2019. Photo credit by Mary Marques.                               

Rediscovering Libraries in the Community
The idea of the Book Fiesta 2019 celebration was born in the first Public Space Summit event last year at the Free Library of Philadelphia. This macro-event celebrated the successes of transformative neighborhoods into a dynamic and welcoming environment for all residents at the local and international levels. These new spaces provided a common area for interaction and conversation, promoting cultural engagement for the well-being of the community. Book Fiesta is the result of many months of consecutive meetings that followed the On The Table event in Philly, between library staff and community leaders that are invested in the well-being of South Philly residents as community. As you already know, libraries -as institutions- have a long tradition of developing trust in their neighborhoods and their role is transformative, contributing to the growth and success of all residents. Library leaders and local movers and shakers around the neighborhoods are working together to rediscover better ways to serve our constituents, with local resources that allow safe environments for social-cultural interactions among neighbors. Book Fiesta invites you to enjoy and celebrate the languages, cultures, and growth of our South Philly community!

 Abbe Klebanoff, Branch Manager at Fumo Family Library states: "At Fumo, we decided to create a make-and-take bottle cap magnetic mosaic, after a wonderful partnership was formed last summer between the Fumo Family Library, the Magic Gardens, and The Rosenbach. During this four-day program, teens learned about South American Art and its culture. Then they created their own mosaic, ala The Magic Garden, using grout, bottle caps, and lots of fun items. With the upcoming South Philly Book Fiesta program, our teens jumped at the chance to lead this program for the community. We are collecting many items for this program and we know you will love to add to your own mosaic. In addition, our beginning Summer Ukulele club was so fun, participants decided to extend the program in order to show off their new skills with a concert for the program. We hope you enjoy their efforts."

Take your Book Fiesta passport and explore your community! Here are the events that will be held at neighborhood libraries throughout South Philadelphia:

All of the following events take place on Saturday, October 19

Please follow us on social media with the hashtag #BookFiesta19!

This program is supported by the Neighborhood Collaboration Grant: Philadelphia Parks Alliance, Knight Foundation, Friends of the Free Library and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Have a question for Free Library staff? Please submit it to our Ask a Librarian page and receive a response within two business days.

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What a wonderful day in celebration of a unique and engaging community; leave it to the library to lead the way!
Jeff Bullard - Philaelphia
Thursday, October 10, 2019