By Andrea Lemoins
The Friends of Paschalville Library is a group of community members who advocate for their library to support literacy and build community in Southwest Philadelphia. Members come from all walks of life. Many are community leaders who can be found supporting issues around literacy, civic engagement and food access in the Southwest. Diane Poulson-Venn, a Friends member and Community Advisor for the Paschalville Partnership on talking to the community about the library: “It’s been an enlightening and rewarding experience, getting to speak to people about what they feel should come to the community, rather than being told.” In advocating for their library, the Friends group has become the community connector between the neighborhood and library staff, ensuring that all are working together to support the wellbeing of the community.
Paschalville Library, located at the corner of 70th and Woodland Avenue, is a long-standing community hub in the Southwest. The library, built in 1915, has historically supported job seekers, hosted English as a second language classes and community meetings. Now, with Covid-19, many programs have gone online. However, the Friends of Paschalville group understands that the community needs multiple ways to come together, and that the library can evolve to meet the needs of the new normal. The group is actively working to meet patrons where they are and to inform them about changes coming to the library.
The city of Philadelphia’s Rebuild program, funded by the beverage tax, is investing $9 million dollars in physical improvements to Paschalville Library. For years the library has closed due to heating and cooling problems, keeping the community from having reliable access to the library and its resources. The building, being over 100 years old, is also not fully ADA accessible. The roof leaks and the building suffers from general neglect because of a lack of city funding for libraries. There are many physical improvements that need to be made to the building, and the Friends know that the community needs to have a voice in these improvements.
The Paschalville Friends see Rebuild as an opportunity for the community to advocate for the library they want. The group has plans to do community outreach to make sure that Southwest residents have a voice in the future of their library. The goal is to ensure that literacy and equitable access are at the heart of the building improvements. Join them in making sure that Paschalville Library is a safe and welcoming place for all.
If you are interested in becoming a Friend of Paschalville Library, or want to let them know your ideas about a safe and inclusive library, email the group at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Friends group meets through Zoom, the last Tuesday of each month at 11am.
You can like the Friends on Facebook at Paschalville Friends Group, and follow on Twitter and Instagram @FriendsofPaschall.
(Andrea Lemoins is Community Organizer for the Southwest Cluster of the Free Library of Philadelphia)