Literature Department

1901 Vine Street 2nd Floor, Pepper Hall (Room 207)
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Open today 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday Closed
Monday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Upcoming Closures

  • Mon., Sep. 2 : Closed Labor Day
  • Mon., Oct. 14 : Closed Indigenous Peoples' Day
  • Mon., Nov. 11 : Closed Veterans Day
  • Thu., Nov. 28 : Closed Thanksgiving Day
View all holiday closings

Upcoming Events

Novels In Progress

Sat, July 13, 2024 2:00 P.M.

Molly’s Books & Records in partnership with the Literature Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia presents a salon-style reading and conversation featuring the work of…

July New Play Reading Series

Wed, July 24, 2024 6:00 P.M.

Join us on July 24th and July 31st to hear two new plays  brought to life by actors and afterwards meet the cast and  playwright.  You might  meet  the next Suzin…

July New Play Reading Series

Wed, July 31, 2024 6:00 P.M.

Join us on July 31st to hear a new play brought to life by actors and afterwards meet the cast and  playwright. You might meet the next Suzin Lori Parks or  Quiara…

Frida Kahlo: Her Typewriter and Life

Now through Sat, August 31, 2024 5:00 P.M.

Visit the Literature Department on the 2nd floor of Parkway Central to type on the same model typewriter artist and cultural icon Frida Kahlo used, an L.C. Smith. Read and borrow books of her…

 

The Literature Department is located with the Art Department in Pepper Hall on the 2nd floor of Parkway Central and houses over 60,000 books of American, English and World Literature. Our collection includes:

  • Poetry, plays, essays, humor, folklore, letters and author biographies
  • Criticism of American, English and World literature, including criticism of novels and short stories
  • Writing and citation guidebooks
  • Books on movies, theater, journalism and media studies
  • Linguistics and books about the English language
  • World language novels

Please note novels and short stories in English are found in Philbrick Hall on the first floor.

If you are a writer looking for resource please view our list of local writing groups and literary journals.

Literature Department Collection Highlights:

The 23-volume Oxford English Dictionary with the four-volume Additions series, invaluable for tracing the etymology and history of English words, is on reference in our Dictionary section.

Lists of our current periodical holdings can be found here and here.

Please see our booklists for reading suggestions.

You can find Literary journals on microfilm in the Newspapers and Microfilm Center.

If you are interested in researching the19th century we have Poole’s Index to Periodical Literature (1802-1881) and Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals (1824-1990). The full-text of most of the citations listed are available on microfilm.

The Ottemiller Collection which includes reference copies of significant English-language plays from 1900-1985.

A large and in-depth collection of works by and about Shakespeare, some of which circulate and some of which are reference. The collection includes original copies of Howard Henry Furness’s Variorum, and many 18th and 19th century American and English imprints of Shakespeare’s works. To request any of these items please ask for assistance at the reference desk as they are located in our Regional Offsite Center (ROC).

Monday Poets:

Entering its 30th year, the Monday Poets Reading Series showcases a variety of talented poets with local, national, and international reputations. Monday Poets is one of the longest continuously running programs at the Free Library and we are excited for you to join us this season. For additional information, please call the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Literature Department at 215-686-5403 or email us at ereflit@freelibrary.org.

Past Monday Poets readings:

January 30, 2023  Maria Fama and Amy Barone 

February 27, 2023 Robert Coles and Bill O'Connell 

March 30, 2023 Catherine Bancroft and Doris Ferleger

April 17, 2023 Lilvia Soto and Carmen Amato Tejeda

May 15, 2023 Cindy Savett, Celia Bland, and Jonathan Blunk

The Literature Department has commissioned musicians to respond to poetry and other holdings of our collection. To listen to or see past performances visit our Literature Department channel on Archive.org.

Research Resources:

Additional electronic resources are located here.

For Educators:

Are you an educator interested in bringing a class to the Literature Department? Email is well in advance at ErefLit@freelibrary.org and let us know what kinds of library materials would best support your course. We will follow up and gather books and other materials on a given subject.