In 2013, the Lovett Memorial Library on Germantown Avenue in Mount Airy was selected as one of four Philadelphia branches to be a part of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Building Inspiration: 21st Century Libraries Initiative.
For more than 130 years it has been a staple of the Mount Airy community. Now, nearly four years later, the new Lovett is approaching its completion date.
Planning for the renovations began in 2014 when the Free Library of Philadelphia received a $25 million dollar grant from the William Penn Foundation.
The multimillion-dollar transformation and expansion of Lovett has also been in close collaboration with Mt. Airy USA, which has provided money for landscaping and and a new garden for the community.
The new library will aim to serve as a community center for residents of all ages. A building extension will include a children’s library, pre-k zone, living room, and teen space.
Not surprisingly, technology will be a main part of the renovations.
“With our new 21st century renovation, we are going to have a tech lab on the second level,” said Northwest Neighborhood Libraries leader Sandy Thompson. “In what was previously the children’s room, there will be updated computers.”
“It will still have the historical touches,” said Thompson. “But it will be more readily available for programming and groups and the library to use it.”
With the new renovations comes something that soon-to-be Lovett branch manager Marsha Stender is quite excited about – ADA compliance. When she looked at the renderings, ADA-compliant elevators and restrooms, in addition to multimedia ADA technology, were a major addition to the century-old structure. It also gives senior citizens a more accessible library as well.
“Being ADA compliant is a big deal,” said Stender. “Also, it means that it is just that much easier for people who are aging in place, and there are lots of such people in Mount Airy, to be able to do things within the library.”
During the closure, residents of the nearby community were forced to other branches in the surrounding area. Among the alternatives are the Joseph E. Coleman Library in Germantown, which has been home to the Lovett book club and the Chestnut Hill Branch which has been home to Lovett’s chess club.
Stender has heard from those residents who have gone to other branches for their programs. The overwhelming feedback is that it is not the same.
“You don’t necessarily get the same turnout or the same people,” said Stender, “They are very much looking forward to coming back under the umbrella of the library.”
When Lovett re-opens, it will feature more community space than it did before, while incorporating community suggestions for programming.
“Before the library even began construction of this back in 2014, they had community meetings asking the community what they wanted,” said Thompson. “Up until the time we closed and even last summer, we had community meetings giving the timeline of what was happening, where they can reach out if they have problems or concerns. So the community has been very involved since the conception.”
“In terms of programming,” said Stender. “We will provide the structure and the fixtures and we will get a lot of input from the community.”
Although construction on Lovett is expected to be completed in the summer, the branch will likely not have its re-opening ceremony until early November.
–Text, video and images by Bud Knapp.