May 16, 2022

Free Library of Philadelphia Receives $25 Million Grant For Central and Branch Library Renovations

The $25 million grant is the largest grant ever given by the William Penn Foundation.

It’s also the largest grant ever received by the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The renovations are part of the just announced 21st Century Libraries Initiative.

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

The Free Library will receive $25 million from William Penn over three years, helping to pay for renovations at the Central Library downtown, plus the renovation and expansion of five neighborhood branches in South Philadelphia, central North Philadelphia, Logan, Tacony, and Mount Airy.

The money does not make possible a Moshe Safdie-commissioned annex long dreamed of for a plot of land just north of the library’s Beaux Arts building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. But it will provide a physical intermediate step by establishing new flow through the current building to eventually link it with the annex, while money continues to be sought for that larger expansion.

From CBS Philadelphia

Library officials plan to remove several floors of outdated book stacks in the main building to create a new common area. The neighborhood branches will get new technology and unique programming specific to their communities.

From WHYY:

Some of the gift – $7 million – will go to the ongoing renovation of the interior of the main Parkway Central Library, which plans to tear out most of the outdated storage stacks. The redesign will add 40,000 square feet of space to the historic building, most of which will be used for a new small-business and entrepreneurial center.

The bulk of the gift – $18 million – will go toward renovating a handful of neighborhood libraries. It goes a long way toward a $40 million “Building Inspiration” campaign to tailor branch libraries to fit the specific needs of their communities.

Toward that goal, the City of Philadelphia has chipped in $4.5 million, City Council has given $2 million, the state has promised $6 million, and private donors also have made contributions.

“It’s nice that the thinking of the organization – its strategic plan – has finally reached a place where people are saying, ‘I get this now,'” said library president and director Siobhan Reardon.

Much more material about the renovation plans (fact sheets, drawings, etc.) via the 21st Century Libraries Initiative Web Site.

Here’s the complete announcement released earlier today.

21st Century Libraries Initiative Announcement

See Also: One of Our Most Favorite and Smartest Initiatives of 2014.
It happens to come from the Free Library of Philadelphia (April 15, 2014).

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.