The impressive collections housed at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Central Library have enriched Philadelphians educationally, culturally, and economically over the last 75 years. Its riches include many treasures, ranging as far as Sumerian cuneiform tablets that are 4,000 years old. In addition to its holdings, the Central Library offers a multitude of programs and public services for children and adults.
The Central Library sits on Philadelphia’s Logan Circle, one of the City’s most dignified and noteworthy public places. Along with its twin, the adjacent Family Court Building, and other nearby architectural gems -- including the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences, Moore College of Art, and the distant Philadelphia Board of Education building -- the Central Library is part of an important communal gathering place midpoint on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Central to the enhancement of Logan Circle is Swann Fountain, designed by sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder and architect Wilson Eyre, Jr., which began operation in 1924. The fountain is a monument to Dr. Wilson Cary Swann, the founder of the Philadelphia Fountain Society. Other public sculptures, including Calder and Eyre's Shakespeare Memorial, also add to the area's grace and attractiveness.
Today's panoramic view from Logan Circle of the Central Library -- framed by the grandeur of the Art Museum at one end of the Parkway and City Hall at the other -- confirms the vision of the library's founders in locating the building here, as in many other decisions more central to the library's mission. Despite all the seeming dead-ends that they faced and all the repeated conflicts among so many factions that they endured, the building now stands as a testament to William Pepper's singular dream of establishing a world-class palace of learning, which is still "the People's Library, absolutely free to all."