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William Penn Foundation Gives Historic Grant to Free Library

In an effort to help reshape how today's communities experience public libraries, the William Penn Foundation dished out its largest grant ever to the Free Library of Philadelphia. According to Newsworks, the grant is a whopping $25M and is the largest gift in Free Library's 120-year existence. To break it down, $7M of it will go towards renovation efforts inside the hub on the Parkway, which will house a new 40,000 square foot small business and entrepreneurial center. The remaining $18M will go towards revamping several current branches into centers that cater towards the specific needs of their surrounding community. According to the Associated Press, the money will be distributed over three years.

Many of the libraries were built and funded by Andrew Carnegie, who spent his tremendous wealth creating nearly 1,700 public libraries across the United States. As Siobahn Reardon, Director of the Free Library, told Newsworks:

"All these old Carnegies have this mountain of steps," said Reardon. "Remember, you are walking into a temple of knowledge, so you have to climb this mountain to get into the temple. That doesn't work in the 21st century. We have to make sure our services are ubiquitous." Renovations are already taking place at the South Philadelphia Branch on Broad and Morris streets. The city has partnered with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to create a community care center featuring a library, rec center, a city health center and a CHOP neighborhood care center.

Fun Fact: According to Wikipedia, The Free Library was chartered in 1891 by Dr. William Pepper.
· William Penn Foundation bestows $25 million on Free Library for innovations, renovations
· Philly Library System Gets $25M Grant To Renovate [CBS 3, AP]