Free Library and Rebuild: Building Stronger Communities One Park, Recreation Center, and Library at a Time

By Jenn D. RSS Fri, December 17, 2021

Free Library staff recently took the time to chat and answer some of our Library-specific Rebuild questions. Read their insights and enthusiasm about what Rebuild (Rebuilding Community Infrastructure) will bring to select libraries in Philly.

Hello! Please introduce yourselves and tell us about your current involvement in Rebuild efforts at your library.

"My name is Ben Remsen and I’m the Adult / Teen Librarian and Library Supervisor at Kingsessing Library in Southwest Philly. I’ve been involved with Rebuild by attending meetings where I and other staff of the library have shared our hopes and concerns around the renovation, as well as having design ideas bounced off us for feedback. I’ve also helped set up and promote public events where the community has been able to give input and get updates. Lastly, I’ve given many tours of the space to people involved in the process."

"I’m Jessica Walker and I’m currently the Acting Branch Manager at the Blanche A. Nixon/Cobbs Creek Library. Staff have been meeting with Community Ventures, the non-profit Project User, to share how we use the space for programming and serving patrons. In addition, we have been sharing Rebuild news and the details of our upcoming community engagement events with the community."

"My name is Ehud Adar and I'm currently the Adult / Teen Librarian and Acting Branch Supervisor at Paschalville Library. I’m the liaison for all things Rebuild at my library. The most recent efforts have been collaboratively planning, implementing, and collecting a Community Survey, as well as participating in design meetings. In addition, Paschalville staff have been performing an analysis of our collections to inform Materials Management and the architects of the project on the decision-making for the next iteration of this library."

What pieces of Rebuild are you most excited to see enacted for your library and surrounding community?

Ben: "I’m very excited to see our library's meeting room spaces renovated so that we can even more successfully serve as a community hub for the residents of the Kingsessing area. I’m glad that renovations to our elevator will mean that we’re finally a truly accessible facility. I’m thrilled that the roof will finally no longer leak! I’m also just generally looking forward to having our 102-year-old building spruced up."

Jessica: "We’re really looking forward to accessibility issues with the building being addressed, so that everyone can easily use all areas of our library. In addition, our State Representative Joanna McClinton was able to secure additional funding for landscaping and engaging outdoor areas from the Greenways, Trails, and Recreation Fund."

Ehud: "I’m excited to see both the interior and exterior of this building come together in a way that feels truly informed by the community and their hopes and dreams for the library."

Lastly, for now, how might community engagement events enhance and enliven Rebuild-Library outcomes?

Ben: "Community engagement is going to be essential to making the Rebuild renovations successful at Kingsessing Library. We’re improving the space so that it can be more useful to our community, so we need engaged answers to questions, such as: How does everyone use the library? What are their dreams of how the library might be used? Who isn’t using the library? What can we be offering to bring those folks in? This renovation is a vital opportunity for us as library staff to engage the community about all aspects of library service."

Jessica: "The Blanche A. Nixon/Cobbs Creek Library has a long history in the community. We want our neighbors to come out and share their experiences, hopes, and needs with us so that we can update the building in a way that honors that history and relationship, as well as what best serves the people who live here."

Ehud: "Community engagement events are, at heart, the best way to reach people in the neighborhood at a grassroots level. Obtaining invaluable input and insight for this project strengthens the bonds in the community and gets people together to just have fun and meet their neighbors, while also rediscovering the wonderful things the library aims to do for them."

Thanks so much for speaking with us. If the following video is any indication, Rebuild is off to a great start at our neighborhood libraries. We look forward to checking back with you as your libraries continue along the Rebuild arc!

Keep up to date with #RebuildPHL on Twitter and Instagram, and sign up to receive email updates and news on all Rebuild happenings.

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