Literature Department

1901 Vine Street 2nd Floor, Pepper Hall (Room 207)
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Open today until 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 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Upcoming Closures

  • Mon., May. 27 : Closed Memorial Day
  • Wed., Jun. 19 : Closed Juneteenth
  • Thu., Jul. 4 : Closed Independence Day
  • Mon., Sep. 2 : Closed Labor Day
View all holiday closings

Upcoming Events

Authors and Their Typewriters: Octavia Butler

Now through Tue, April 30, 2024 8:00 P.M.

Visit the Literature Department on the 2nd floor of Parkway Central to learn about author Octavia Butler and type on the same model of typewriter she used, an Olivetti Studio 46 . You can…

Calling for submissions!

Tue, April 30, 2024 11:59 P.M.

Molly’s Books & Records in partnership with the Literature Department of the Philadelphia Free Library is seeking submissions from writers actively working on a novel to participate in…

Treasures from the Literature Vault

Thu, May 2, 2024 4:00 P.M.

Do you love old books? Then join us for Treasures from the Vault– a casual, hands-on book club program spotlighting items from the Literature vault! The vault, home to our closed reference…

Treasures from the Literature Vault

Thu, June 6, 2024 4:00 P.M.

Do you love old books? Then join us for Treasures from the Vault– a casual, hands-on book club program spotlighting items from the Literature vault! The vault, home to our closed reference…

The Literature Department is located with the Art Department in Pepper Hall, 2nd floor, 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

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

Some highlights of the Literature Department’s collection:

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.

An up-to-date list of our current periodical holdings:https://catalog.freelibrary.org/Community/lists/43489/

Please see our booklists for reading suggestions, here:  https://catalog.freelibrary.org/Community/users/Literature/

For anyone one doing 19th century research, we own 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 is available on microfilm.

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

A large, 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 (in remote storage).  To request any of these items please ask for assistance at the reference desk as they are located in our regional offsite center also known as ROC.

Monday Poets

Entering its 29th 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 onsite in room 108 at Parkway Central Library at 6:30pm.  

For additional information, please call the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Literature Department at 215-686-5403 or email us at ereflit@freelibrary.org.

View 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

Archive.org recordings

The Literature 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

In addition please take a look at our listing of additional electronic resources located here.

Educators!  We are here for you!

Are you an educator interested in bringing a class to the Literature Department? You may contact us in advance by emailing ErefLit@freelibrary.org and let us know what kinds of library materials would best support your course and we will work with you to help you gather books and other materials on a given subject.