Today, I decided to go to the Free Library of Philadelphia, Central Branch. It’s a gorgeous building and today was a gorgeous day. Since I needed the exercise, I decided to walk there. It ended up being about two miles, and took me about an hour to get there, because I stopped to take photographs along the way–and get shooed off the set of the Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro movie, which is shooting on Market Street right now.
The library building itself, as you can see, is both gorgeous and gigantic. It’s right next to the Family Court, which is a building of similar style, and taken together they are quite impressive. Both of them are right on the Parkway, so there are wide streets, trees, greens, and fountains all around. It’s our Champs-Élysées, from what I hear.
Just in case you didn’t know it was free. It’s Free!
The library is gigantic, but I spend most of my time in the Philbrick Popular Library, since that’s where the majority of their fiction is. Even though this is only one section of the library, it’s two stories! Against the back wall in the high stacks is most of the fiction, in the middle of the floor, you’ve got everything from mass market paperback sci-fi to audiobooks to new arrivals. It’s easy to waste an hour or two in here. The only problem is that you sometimes have to watch out who’s in the stacks with you: the very first time I came down here, two drunk homeless guys were arguing loudly in Spanish in the lower stacks, and then started fighting. They were ejected after the library called the police, but it’s usually a lot quieter than that.
Here are the stacks from the top view. I enjoy going up there, though the stacks are very close and the light is rather dim.
It’s a little eerie, as you can see:
I also like the “Just Returned” section. Not only can you sometimes snag a book right out from under the queue’s nose, but I also like to see what Philadelphia’s been reading. Surprisingly, it’s not as dire as you’d think, some of the titles people are checking are really great. There were also a surprising number of returned copies of Ulysses. I wonder if the checkers actually read them, or just returned them in frustration.
Finally, here are the fruits of my labor. I didn’t take too many out because I was planning to walk home again. Unfortunately, my messenger bag doesn’t provide the best support… so I thought it would be better to keep it light.