Saturdays At The Library Are Back In Holmesburg—And 11 Others

February 20, 2014 | by Sarah Barr


Detail, Holmesburg Branch's Browsing Collection | Photo: Sarah Barr

Detail, Holmesburg Branch’s Browsing Collection | Photo: Sarah Barr

Starting this Saturday, February 22nd, the Holmesburg Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia will open on Saturdays for the first time in four years. Eleven other neighborhood libraries will also resume a six-day schedule: Andorra, Bustleton, Eastwick, Lillian Marerro, Lovett, Nixon/Cobbs Creek, Santore, West Oak Lane, and Widener. The Donatucci and Fumo libraries will be open six days a week while the new South Philadelphia Library is under construction through early 2016.

Holmesburg Library is able to offer supplemental hours because of an increase in their city operating budget, supported by Mayor Nutter. Located at 7810 Frankford Avenue (at Hartel Street), the branch serves the Holmesburg and Mayfair neighborhoods.

A page from A History of Lower Dublin Academy: A Biographical and Historical Sketch of Thomas Holme and his Times & Other Historical Matters, titled “Royal Repeal of the New Form of Protestation”, dated Dec. 1711

A page from A History of Lower Dublin Academy: A Biographical and Historical Sketch of Thomas Holme and his Times & Other Historical Matters, titled “Royal Repeal of the New Form of Protestation”, dated Dec. 1711

The library is named after Captain Thomas Holme (1624-1695) of Waterford, Ireland who was appointed Surveyor General of the Province of Pennsylvania by William Penn and drafted the original plans for the City of Philadelphia. Through a trust founded by Holme, the Trustees of Lower Dublin Academy donated the land for the library. It is the fifth of twenty-five branch library buildings in Philadelphia constructed through an endowment from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The library, which opened in its current location in 1907, is considered a quintessential Carnegie library because of its T-plan layout, raised basement, brick construction and understated Beaux-Arts style. Designed by architect Horace W. Castor of Sterns & Castor, it also has the distinction of being the smallest of the branch libraries.

While Holmesburg Library, of course, offers free books and free access to its multitude of subscription databases, it also provides access to air conditioning during the summer heat and WiFi year round which many in the community don’t have at home. Recently, the library installed additional electrical outlets to accommodate patrons who bring their own laptop computers.

Unique to the library is an original manuscript: A History of Lower Dublin Academy: A Biographical and Historical Sketch of Thomas Holme and his Times & Other Historical Matters by Samuel C. Willits, 1885. Willits’ manuscript, its recently published transcription and other rare local history books, such as Captain William Crispin and the Crispin Family, are part of a browsing collection, which are not available for circulation.

The library creates community events for a broad age range and holds the majority of them during the summer, taking advantage of the adjoining lot. Unfortunately the library was closed for a few weeks last summer because plumbing issues in the basement caused extensive damage, but repairs are now complete.

The library presents stories and rhymes at Preschool Storytime once or twice a month. The next one is scheduled for Tuesday, February 18 at 10:30am. On the evening of Wednesday, February 26, the library will host a workshop, Make Your Own Eden: Container Gardens. Check their web site for dates and times or stop by the library and pick up a flyer.

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To launch a short photo essay of the Holmesburg Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, click any of the images below. All photos by Sarah Barr except for numbers 6 & 7, which are copies of historic images on display at the branch.


About the Author

Sarah Barr Sarah Barr is a native Philadelphian who has enjoyed many hours in libraries feasting on their resources and occasionally sneaking a Pop-Tart. She earned her B.F.A. from Rosemont College and her M.F.A. in Visual Arts at Lesley University's College of Art & Design.


  1. James F Clark says:

    I remember going to the Lehigh Avenue branch library and walking up all of those steps. This was a beautiful library with a LOT of marble. I believe it is closed now, just like everything else in that city square block and most of that neighborhood. Thank you for this interesting article.

    1. Rebekah Ray says:

      The Lehigh Avenue branch is still very much open! In fact as of this week it is open six days a week. It is called the Lillian Marrero Library now, at 6th and Lehigh. In the next year it will have a renovation making it an up to date 21st century library, within the beauty of the original Carnegie Library. Come and see it.

      1. James F Clark says:

        Thank you Rebekah. I live in Maine now and it would be difficult for me to get there, I wish I could. Take care.

  2. Melissa Migliaccio Myers says:

    This is wonderful. I spent many hours at the Holmesburg Library. Sometime around the age of 10 when I moved to an apartment around the corner I would be at the library everyday. It got to the point that they started putting me to work shelving books and helping with he summer reading program. When I left the area the circulation desk was still at the front door and the skylight was covered. They were just starting the remodel when I left.

  3. Karen D. Lash says:

    Thank you Sarah for your tremendous feature on our beloved community treasure – the Holmesburg Library. Hard to imagine that five years ago this past December, dedicated library patrons and friends came together to save our 104 + historic Carnegie branch which was among 11 originally slated for closure. We are excited that Saturday hours have been restored. In fact, our organization testified before City Council last fall joining the Friends of the Free Library of Philadelphia to ask for a restoration of $3 million to the library’s budget. A partial victory was had with council approving $1 million allowing several branches to restore Saturday service. Our goal is that equity of service is restored throughout the entire free library system and the budget increased to allow for ALL free library branches to return to 6 day per week service. Libraries foster life long learning, are safe havens for children, allow for the generation of ideas and information and provide many community programs throughout the year to engage patrons. The Friends of Holmesburg Library is a group of dedicated volunteers that raises funds for the Holmesburg Branch, promotes the value and usage of the library, advocates for city and state funding, and sponsor free community programming for children, teens, adults and seniors. The reading garden pictured was designed and created by our group and the display case housing our historic collection donated. We meet bi-monthly and are always looking for more volunteers to join us in supporting our dedicated librarians and our Holmesburg Library Branch. Our group is among 42 + throughout the free library system supporting neighborhood branches. Feel free to like us on face book “Friends of Holmesburg Library” Again, thank you Sarah for this wonderful feature on libraries. Don’t hesitate to reach out again. Cheers, Karen D. Lash, President, Friends of Holmesburg Library (kdlash@comcast.net)

    1. Karen D. Lash says:

      The Friends of the Free Library (FFL) of Philadelphia is tweeting out Sarah’s feature to all library friends, stakeholders, supporters, donors, etc across the City of Philadelphia. BTW, there exist 48 active Friends groups of dedicated library patrons supporting the Free Library system. Collectively, we’ll be working together under the leadership of FFL staff to advocate for the restoration of 6 day service across all neighborhood free library branches as part of the upcoming city budget discussions. Visit http://www.libraryfriends.info

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