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Four Philly libraries unveil their stunning makeovers, in before-after photos

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These are what libraries of the 21st century look like

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The Lillian Marrero Library is one of the five Philly libraries that underwent a major transformation as part of the 21st Century Library initiative.
Photos by © Jeffrey Totaro

After closing up shop for more than a year, four branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia are opening their doors once again looking better, brighter, and even more beautiful than before.

Logan Library and the Lillian Marrero Library in Fairhill both opened within weeks of each other in November. Tacony Library will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday, with Lovett Memorial Library to follow on December 16.

These branches make up four of the five libraries that were selected for the William Penn Foundation’s 21st Century Libraries initiative, which, as the name implies, aims to transform traditional buildings into libraries of the 21st century. The South Philadelphia Library was the first of the five to undergo this major overhaul.

“Most of our neighborhood libraries have not experienced substantial renovation in decades, and many can no longer adequately support the rich and complex needs of today’s users,” said Siobhan A. Reardon, president and director of the Free Library. “These beautiful, dynamic 21st Century Libraries will serve as models of what a library can and should be in today’s society.”

So what exactly does a 21st century library look like? They’re all now ADA compliant, for one, and have new spaces dedicated to specific groups, including children, teens, and pre-K. There’s new site-specific artwork, as well as technology upgrades like computer bars. All of the libraries were redesigned by architect James R. Keller.

Here’s a breakdown, in photos, of what to expect at each new-and-improved library.

Courtesy of Library of Congress and by © Jeffrey Totaro

Logan Library (1333 Wagner Avenue)

Logan Library dates back to 1917-18 when it was built with a donation from Andrew Carnegie. Today, the historic building features a new reading garden, study rooms, and self-checkout kiosks. Its programming also has a new focus on family literacy.

Courtesy of Library of Congress and Photo by © Jeffrey Totaro

Lillian Marrero Library (601 West Lehigh Avenue)

This Fairhill library was also built with the help of Carnegie in 1906. At the time, the limestone building was the largest library in Pennsylvania. Today, it has been modernized with a new, glassy addition that features ADA-accessible elevators. There’s also a focus on providing expanded bilingual resources and workplace readiness help.

Courtesy of Library of Congress and Photo by © Jeffrey Totaro

Tacony Library (6742 Torresdale Avenue)

The Tacony Library opened the same year as the Lillian Marrero Library, though it had originally set up shop in a small school house as early as 1876. Today, it’s home to Small Business Resource Center, led by the Tacony Community Development Corporation. It opens its doors post-renovation on Saturday, December 2.

Courtesy of Free Library of Philadelphia, Print and Picture Collection and Photo by © Jeffrey Totaro

Lovett Memorial Library (6945 Germantown Avenue)

This Mt. Airy branch dates back to the 1870s, but it didn’t become part of the Free Library of Philadelphia until the 1920s. After undergoing numerous renovations and additions over the years, the 21st Century Library renovation will bring a new Lovett Park to the site, which will be in clear view from the new covered reading porch. There are also new elevators, three computer lounges, and a quiet zone. It officially reopens on Saturday, December 16.

Free Library of Philadelphia

1901 Vine Street, , PA 19103 (215) 686-5322 Visit Website

Free Library of Philadelphia

5325 Overbrook Avenue, , PA 19131 Visit Website

Lovett Memorial Library

6945 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19119 Visit Website