It’s amazing what a difference a few years make. Three years ago, I never would have considered taking my children to the library on vacation. That many little hands grabbing books and making messes did not sound relaxing at all. Now that my kids are age 9, 5, and 3, however, we stop in at local libraries on almost every trip we take. Most of the new books are the same as at our library back home, but every children’s section we’ve visited has its own special collection of older and out-of-print books. We go to storytime for a break from the heat or read books together in whatever comfy nook we can find while Josh gets some work done in a quiet hotel room. Earlier this year, we stopped in at the Free Library of Philidelphia while in town visiting my brother.
The name of the library intrigued me, so I did some reading about the history when we got home. When the American Library Society was founded during an 1876 meeting of librarians in Philidelphia, Philidelphia itself didn’t actually have any free, public libraries. Dr. William Pepper, a prominent physician and educator, spent the next 40 years trying to get a free public library system up and running in Philidelphia. (He was also responsible for the library at the University of Pennsylvania, so he was obviously my kind of people.)
Someday, I may go sit in new libraries and read away the afternoon. These days, my library trips are almost exclusively limited to the children’s section. Most old libraries have incredible architecture, and The Free Library of Philidelphia was no exception. We could have taken the elevator, but why miss this incredible staircase? On our way to the children’s section in Philidelphia, however, I took a quick detour. I didn’t know what to expect, but there was no way I was walking away from something called Map Room without a peek. It was amazing.
The children’s section at the Parkway Central branch is located down in the basement, through two hallways lined with Book Week posters from the past 100 years. Once we made it to the children’s department, it didn’t take us long to find a puppet corner, a stack of books to read, and tables with puzzles and games. After a morning walking around the city, we were happy for a place to rest indoors.
We left the library with a pocket poem for National Poem in Your Pocket Day and a list of books to check out at home. If you ever visit this particular branch in Philidelphia, there is a park and a natural history museum just down the street.
Have you ever gone to the library on vacation? I never would have considered it a few years ago, but it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of visiting a new city.