A recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that the Free Libraries of Philadelphia are underused when compared with public libraries in other urban areas.
While Philadelphia may have more libraries per capita than any other city, only half of the participants in the study said they had been to a library within the past year.
Of the 54 locations spread throughout the city, however, the 40th Street branch has defied this trend by being one of the busiest libraries in the system. On any given day, the library is filled with children doing schoolwork, avid readers checking out books and residents browsing the Internet. The branch also offers free English classes to immigrants and recently had a speed dating session aimed at local singles.
The library at 40th and Walnut streets is the most used in West Philadelphia. Branch manager Ai Leng Ng credited this to its ideal surroundings. “Location has a lot to do with it. We are really convenient to the El stop at 40th and Market and the buses [on Walnut Street] come right in front of the library. It’s at a major cross junction, nestled in a very busy area.”
The library has been able to find this success even as operating hours are reduced due to city budget cuts.