On the triangle lot where Baltimore Avenue, 56th Street and Cobbs Creek Parkway meet sits a yellow building with murals painted on every side. This is the Blanche A. Nixon/Cobbs Creek Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. The library was founded in 1925 with a grant from Andrew Carnegie.
In 1990, this branch was renamed after community activist Blanche A. Nixon. She worked with former gang members and at-risk youth in the community. Together, they painted the murals that can still be seen on the outside of the library.
The library continues to be a place offering many programs and resources for community members.
“It is a struggle to help people realize what the library offers, what we do for the community,” said Sarah Stippich, the children’s librarian. “We’re really a connector of people, people with resources.”
Stippich is in charge of planning the many activities and programs offered to toddlers and children up to 12 years old. One important after-school program called L.E.A.P. helps school-age children with their homework and teaches them how to use the library databases and other available resources. There are also movie matinees, storytime and an art club.
“We have so many kids here after school, it’s crazy. It’s pretty much packed to the gills after school,” said Stippich. “It’s really wonderful and we try and have programming that’s just fun for the kids so we get them in the door to begin with and then we’re pushing books on them.”
In addition to the children’s section, there is also an adult and teen section in the library, with a handful of computers and hundreds of books. Programs held for them include teen cafes and community groups that reach out to foster children. Outside of these programs, some teens just come to the library to hang out, to work on homework and to stay out of trouble.
“[The library is a] great resource, there’s a lot of knowledge to gain just sitting in the library,” said young adult library member Dontae Parler. “This is where everybody needs to be, the greatest place to be.”
Text and images by Chelsea Koerbler.