Free little libraries have the potential to transform a neighborhood’s reading resources.
Usually recognizable by their small wooden structures and bright colors, the little libraries use an honor system: take a book, leave a book. Community members can donate or grab a book from the makeshift libraries 24/7.
Many of the makeshift libraries are associated with the nonprofit, Little Free Library. The literacy organization was founded in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a mission to increase book access. Currently, there are over 50 Little Free Libraries in Philadelphia. However, many others are independent and not associated with the nonprofit.
In Kensington, the lending libraries are bridging a gap. The lack of access to some library branches is a barrier for residents. Although the Free Library of Philadelphia received additional funding from the City in June, neighborhood branches continue to face staffing shortages, resulting in inconsistent operating hours. The increased funding was also less than what was asked for by library advocates.
Additionally, access to literacy tools is crucial citywide. According to a 2020 report from the School District of Philadelphia, only 32% of third graders were reading on grade level.
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For a number of reasons, Kensington community members have taken up the task of setting up little libraries on their blocks. Here is a list of lending library boxes in Kensington and nearby neighborhoods.
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Amber Street Library
This little library box, which has a colorful mock-stain glass design, is located at 3351 Amber St. Books of all genres and reading levels are accepted at this location.
Coral Street Book Ark
The Coral Street Book Ark is located at 2670 Coral St. This green-colored library is part of the Camden County Public Library’s Book Ark Project and is supported by the Coral Street Fridge. The book ark accepts books of all genres. For updates on the book ark, follow the Coral Street Fridge on Instagram.
Emerald & Pacific Little Free Library
The Emerald & Pacific library box is located at 2001 E. Pacific St. This bright yellow box accepts books for children and adults. For updates, follow the little library on Facebook and Instagram.
Emerald & Madison Little Library
The Emerald & Madison Little Library can be found at 2001 E. Madison St. The white box, which is located within a community garden at the block’s corner, accepts books for all ages.
Jasper Street Library
The Jasper Street library box is located at 3420 Jasper St. This lending library only accepts children’s books. Donations can be dropped off at the site.
Harrowgate Park Little Library
This little library is located in Harrowgate Park at 3455 Kensington Ave. The box is near the Jasper and Schiller streets entrance and accepts books for all ages. Donations can be dropped off directly at the site.
Howie the Little Free Library
This library is the Incredible Hulk of little libraries. Howie the Little Free Library is made up of three book boxes located at 2213 N. Howard St. Each box is labeled for a specific age group. “Howie Jr.” accepts books for ages 0-10. “Howiette” accepts books for teens. “Howie” accepts books for adults, including fiction, nonfiction, and cookbooks.
Donations can be dropped off at site or bought online from its Amazon Wish List. For updates on this little library, follow its Instagram.
NSCA Garden Library
The Norris Square Community Alliance (NSCA), a community development corporation headquartered at 174 W. Diamond St, placed a little library box in its community garden behind the building. The garden is located next to the teen center at 2034 Mascher St. The box only accepts children’s books.
Editors: Zari Tarazona / Designer: Siani Colón