Love at the libraries

Judi Moore sits at her desk in the children’s section at McPherson Square Library on Indiana Avenue on February 9, 2019. Moore has worked at McPherson for 30 years. (Photo by Alexis Rogers)

For Judi Moore, Marcela Franco and Bryan Belknap, the relationships they build and things they learn are a big reason they love working at Kensington’s libraries.

Moore, the children’s librarian at McPherson Square Library, remembers having a chance encounter with a former student on the El. The man, who had previously struggled with math, told her about his job as an accountant.

Now Moore, who has worked at McPherson for 30 years, is starting to see her second generation of kids come through the library, as children she previously worked with are beginning to bring their kids to the branch.

A few years ago, when WHYY interviewed her for a story, she joked she’ll retire once people start bringing their grandkids. Retirement is still a few years away for Moore, but she’ll be emotional when the day comes.

“I’m going to cry,” Moore said. “Just the idea of not having a place to go to in the morning when you wake up is scary.”

Marcela Franco stands behind her desk at the Kensington Library on Dauphin Street on February 4, 2019, where she worked for more than 20 years. Franco’s last day was February 4, 2019, and she has since transferred to the Lawncrest branch. (Photo by Evan Easterling)

For Franco, the people who stop by the reference desk at the Kensington Branch are like family, she said.

“I’ve been really grateful. That’s why I stayed here so long,” Franco said. “It wasn’t the closest to my home or anything. It’s a 30-minute commute, but I just enjoyed the community and how warm and appreciative they are.”

February 4 was her last day at the branch she had worked at since May 1997, save for a short period it closed while understaffed. Franco had a message informing library-goers of her upcoming move taped to the side of her computer as she worked at the Kensington Library’s reference desk. She started in early February at the Lawncrest branch, closer to her home in Mayfair. Franco said hopes to come back and visit and maybe even fill in at the Kensington branch after she leaves.

In his fourth year at McPherson, Belknap hasn’t been a librarian as long as Franco but enjoys the relationships he makes just the same. He is the lead literacy enrichment after-school program maker mentor at McPherson, where he creates programming and STEM-emphasized curriculum to spark curiosity through activities like building flashlights out of cardboard and LED lights.

Not knowing who is going to show up each day and figuring out what students are interested in are exciting parts of his job, Belknap said. As a former philosophy professor at Iowa State University, he also loves that his job allows him to be in an educational environment, where he can learn all sorts of things on the job.

“I love the style of learning here,” he said. “Like I didn’t know how to use a sewing machine when I got hired. I know how to use a sewing machine now.”

Bryan Belknap stands in the teen section at McPherson Square Library on February 4, 2019. Belknap creates after-school programming and STEM-emphasized curriculum to spark curiosity through activities like building flashlights out of cardboard and LED lights. (Photo by Alexis Rogers)

Before Franco worked in libraries, she liked hanging out in them as a high school student and during her time at the University of Michigan. She worked at branches in South and Northeast Philadelphia before settling at the Kensington location on Dauphin Street near Front.

She has worked in several capacities during her career, including four years as a children’s librarian. At Kensington, her recent role involved working at the reference desk, supervising employees, taking outdated books out of circulation and adding new books and movies to the collection.

Franco also performs other tasks, like translating Spanish and helping people make resumes and email accounts.

As she leaves the Kensington branch, she hopes people take advantage of what it has to offer.

“I hope they come — people that don’t come — to come and see what we have to offer,” Franco said. “And people that have been coming keep coming.”

“They may see some new faces, but there’s always nice people here that can help them,” Franco added.


What did you think about this story? Send a note to editors@kensingtonvoice.com, and we’ll consider publishing it in our Voices section. Or, if you have a question you’d like us to explore in future issues, submit it through Curious Kensington. You can also tell us what you think in person at our neighborhood events.

Editor: Jillian Bauer-Reese / Story Designer: Jillian Bauer-Reese / Translator: Kristine Aponte

Send this to a friend