After nine months of extensive renovations, Philbrick Hall at Parkway Central Library re-opened to the public on Thursday, March 1. Made possible by generous support from the Annenberg Foundation, the renovation of Philbrick Hall opened up an additional 2,500 square feet of previously inaccessible space to the public, including the third floor mezzanine. Overall, Philbrick Hall offers 13,800 square feet of space.
The renovation features new seating, shelving, and window treatments in a bright new color palette; refurbished, original terrazzo floors; a restored, intricate plaster ceiling; and energy-efficient new lighting—all designed by Moshe Safdie Associates—allowing the historic grandeur of this Beaux-Arts room to shine through. At the same time, Philbrick Hall has been fully outfitted with the latest technologies, including plenty of new computers and video walls that display information about upcoming programs and other Library news.
In addition to the restoration and refurbishment of the space, 4,400 new items have been added to the already-extensive collections of contemporary fiction, non-fiction, and DVDs housed in Philbrick Hall—with more materials to be added in the coming weeks. The Hall is also home to the Parkway Central Library’s first-ever Teen Center for young adult customers. The 1,000-square-foot space features special lounge seating, work spaces for completing homework and other projects, and a selection of both Macs and PCs.
“Philbrick Hall strikes a great balance of honoring the space’s originfal Beaux-Arts design at the same time it offers our customers access to the latest technologies and resources of the 21st century,” said Free Library of Philadelphia President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon. “I am incredibly proud of the work we accomplished in restoring this grand space, and even prouder to be re-opening Philbrick Hall for our hundreds of thousands of cardholders and for visitors who come to the Library from all over the world.”
The restoration of Philbrick Hall took place as part of “Building Inspiration: Enhancing the Parkway Central Campus,” a multi-phase project to both restore the historic building and to expand the Library’s campus. “Building Inspiration” marks the first time in its 87-year history that Parkway Central Library has been extensively renovated. The work completed in Philbrick Hall complements the exterior refurbishment of Parkway Central and the revitalizing of Shakespeare Park that were accomplished last summer as part of the project, with support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development. In addition, visitors to Parkway Central will be welcomed by a new information desk to be installed in the lobby later in the spring of 2012.
At the grand re-opening celebration of Philbrick Hall, Reardon revealed the Library’s plans for the next phase of the project, which will begin in June 2012 and focus on converting non-public areas of Parkway Central into more than 20,000 square feet of new public space—8,500 of which will be part of an exciting new Common—as well as improving the Library’s materials storage systems.
During the next phase of “Building Inspiration,” Parkway Central’s fourth floor, with its stunning views of the Philadelphia skyline, will undergo an extensive renovation that features several upgrades and triples the amount of pubic space available. As part of the renovations, a modern, professional-grade kitchen will be installed in the space, which will not only support the many public meetings and special events held there, but will also make possible hands-on cooking demonstrations and culinary literacy classes for Library customers.
A portion of the Rare Book Department on the third floor will also be refurbished, expanding the amount of critical, museum-quality conservation space needed to preserve the Library’s many rare and unique items, including major collections of Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Beatrix Potter, Pennsylvania German fraktur, and medieval and oriental manuscripts. At the same time, the amount of public exhibition space in the Department will be increased, so that more people are able to enjoy these hidden gems.
Taking up six floors of publically inaccessible space, Parkway Central’s antiquated stack system—where much of the Library’s archival materials are housed—will also be overhauled as part of “Building Inspiration.” By installing a modern, compact shelving system with 30% greater capacity than the current system, additional floors of space will be opened up to the public.
As mentioned, in the space opened up by the new stacks system, the Library will be building a dynamic 8,500-square-foot Common, featuring classrooms, creativity areas, and quiet spaces. The Common will allow the Free Library to provide enhanced access to its resources while creating the kind of public space that enables ideas, shared learning, creativity, and opportunity to flourish in an open, unstructured, non-book environment.