Building Inspiration: 21st Century Libraries

The Free Library's 21st Century Libraries Initiative is a transformational project to reimagine and reshape neighborhood libraries to meet the changing needs of today's library customers. It is made possible by many generous gifts in a unique partnership between the public and private sectors, underscored by a historic $25 million gift from the William Penn Foundation—the largest private gift ever received by the Free Library.

Four pilot libraries were reopened to the public in 2017, after receiving extensive modernization and expansion. Each library has a unique programmatic focus, chosen in response to identified community needs. The transformed 21st Century Libraries are all ADA compliant and include an improved circulation desk; updated program, meeting, and study rooms; and a computer bar. All have been fitted with warm, state-of-the-art spaces, including:

  • A vibrant Children's Library: a focal point of the new spaces, featuring comfortable children's furniture, designated reading areas, and computers equipped with age-appropriate software.
  • A welcoming Living Room space: a warm and welcoming space in each library where customers can self-check books, gather with friends, and enjoy the library's programs.
  • A dedicated Teen Space: a haven in each library for teens to gather, do homework after school, engage in age-appropriate programming, and receive academic support.
  • A customized Pre-K Zone: located within each Children's Library and brimming with picture books, small tables and chairs, and movable soft furniture that toddlers can use comfortably.

Read the final evaluation of the 21st Century Libraries by Chapin Hall consultants.

Logan Library

Emphasizing Family Literacy

Opened November 4, 2017

New Features
  • a reading garden for customers to settle in and enjoy the books they just checked out

Logan Library Construction Visit Logan Library

Lillian Marrero Library

Emphasizing Early-Childhood Literacy and New Americans

Opened November 18, 2017

New Features
  • a new entrance with ADA-accessible elevators
  • expanded bilingual resources
  • enhanced workplace readiness resources

Lillian Marrero Library Construction Visit Lillian Marrero Library

Tacony Library

Emphasizing Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs

Opened December 2, 2017

New Features
  • Small Business Resource Center providing the information and resources needed to start, manage, and grow a business, as well as offering individual assistance in writing business plans, targeting new customers, and finding sources of financing.

    The Small Business Resource Center has been developed in response to the work of the Tacony Community Development Corporation, which has been working to establish the neighborhood as a quality destination for shopping and dining.

Tacony Library Construction Visit Tacony Library

Lovett Memorial Library

Emphasizing Mt. Airy Community

Opened December 16, 2017

New Features
  • new elevators
  • three centrally located computer lounges featuring state-of-the-art technology and equipment to support the Audio Media Program, which allows customers to produce audio content including audiobooks, original music, and podcasts
  • a dedicated quiet zone for those looking for tranquility and creative inspiration
  • a covered reading porch overlooking the newly landscaped Lovett Park, for quiet reading as well as for book discussions, conversation groups, knitting workshops, and more

Lovett Memorial Library Construction Visit Lovett Memorial Library


Free Library of Philadelphia

The walls of the newly-remodeled 21st Century Libraries just got even prettier! We can't wait to invite you inside later this autumn to see the libraries for yourselves. A big THANK YOU is due to INTECH for their hard work on the Building Inspiration construction, as well as for the presentation of four framed original prints...

Free Library of Philadelphia

Last year, the Free Library of Philadelphia welcomed more than six million visitors. Thirty percent of those visitors stopped in monthly. In a single year, those visitors generated more than 3 million reference questions, which equates to two questions for every man, woman and child who lives in the city today.

Free Library of Philadelphia

The Free Library of Philadelphia is delighted to announce four new site-specific public art commissions at neighborhood libraries across the city. The art will be placed at four of the libraries undergoing renovation and expansion through the Building Inspiration: 21st Century Libraries Initiative.

Chestnut Hill Local

As part of the Free Library of Philadelphia's Building Inspiration: 21st Century Libraries Initiative, a project financed by a $25-million grant from the William Penn Foundation, two new stained-glass works of art were installed in Lovett Memorial Library, 6945 Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy, on Aug. 10.

Philly Voice

Construction is underway on the next phase of an effort to bring Philadelphia libraries into the modern age. This week, The Free Library of Philadelphia announced that work has begun on the Lillian Marrero Library in Fairhill and the Lovett Memorial Library in Mount Airy.