Northwest Philadelphia: The Joseph E. Coleman Library Closes For Repair

The Joseph E. Coleman library was named after the first African American president of the Philadelphia City Council, Joseph E. Coleman.

Sitting on the corner, at the intersection of Greene Street and Chelten Avenue, lies the Joseph E. Coleman library. Since January 25 of this year, the library has been closed due to electrical issues causing a lack of power and heat in the building. According to library officials, this is not the first time this location has been closed this year. While the library has only been closed for slightly more than a month, local residents have already felt the rippling effects of the location’s temporary shutdown.

Joyce Holsten, a senior citizen of the Germantown community, uses the library to get access to vital information she needs for housing.

“All the things we, as seniors need from the library, like rent rebate papers, and this, that, and other stuff, we can’t get them. If you live in this neighborhood you want to go there” Holsten said.

Of the 43,329 people in the area, roughly 20 percent of them are below the poverty line, according to the latest census data. Since 1895, with its first location in Vernon Hall, the library has served as an essential part of the Germantown community. In addition to providing access to computers and books, the Joseph E. Coleman Library also offers an after school program, adult education classes and language classes all free of charge.

Although the closing of the historic library has been an issue effecting the entire neighborhood, the children seem to be the most affected. The library is located directly across the street from the Imani Education Circle Charter School, and just a couple blocks up from the Mastery Charter School at 5700 Wayne Avenue.

Lillian M. Dixon works on paperwork.
Lillian M. Dixon works on paperwork.

Lillian M. Dixon, the co-director of Sankofa Academic Enrichment After School Program, first encountered conflicts with the library’s closing over the summer. The after school program, located in Canaan Baptist Church, at 315 West Winona St., previously held weekly reading activities at the library.

“Every Wednesday our students were supposed to go over for storytelling. We were highly impacted because we had structured that into our schedule,” Dixon said. “Everything was coordinated and it sort of threw a ruffle in our daily transition once a week.”

Joseph L. Steele waits for the bus after departing Germantown.
Joseph L. Steele waits for the bus.

Joseph L. Steele, a Germantown resident, recalls the kids that spent hours at the library every day after school during the week. “The kids come from school, right at the charter school. They come down here and go to the library” says Steele. “It’s an inconvenience when it’s closed all the time.”

Library officials say the location will be reopen in the next couple of weeks.

Text and images by Imani Abdus-Saboor

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.