PHILADELPHIA, April 17, 2007 - The Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, today on the second day of National Library Week, celebrated a milestone in the Campaign for a New Central Library, with the announcement of a major gift.
With government officials, board members, and staff looking on, William R. Sasso, chair of the Foundation Board of Directors and W. Wilson Goode, Sr., Chair of the Board of Trustees, announced a $15 million challenge grant from an anonymous donor.
“Our gratitude is beyond measure,” said Linda E. Johnson, Chief Executive Officer for the Library’s Foundation. “This gift will enable us to move forward aggressively in the final phase of the campaign, and, importantly, underscores the strength of the public/private partnership which lies at the heart of this extraordinary citywide effort.”
“We are on a roll,” Sasso said. “The project is taking on a life of its own, and there’s enormous excitement as we begin to set our sights on the next milestone--groundbreaking for the New Central Library. Our appreciation to the donor is boundless.”
Sasso also shared comments from the anonymous donor: “In making this challenge gift, we recognize the many ways in which the Free Library positively impacts the Philadelphia community. Our desire is to help expand the Central Library and revitalize the heart of the library system--making it worthy of Philadelphia's position as a world-class city by providing additional space and state-of-the-art facilities. The renewed Central Library will be a center where all segments of the community come together to access information and exchange ideas in a dynamic environment. In its ongoing pursuit of this vision, we can think of no institution in Philadelphia more deserving of our support than the Free Library."
Wilson Goode, Sr., who Co-Chairs the Campaign, thanked the generous donor and the city and state for their strong commitments to the project. “They have been with us every step of the way. The momentum for this project builds everyday, and we are grateful for the city and state’s ongoing support.”
Gene Dias, Director of Community Relations for the Philadelphia Phillies stood in for Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies star infielder, who will be a spokesperson for the capital campaign. Rollins has supported a literacy program for children called the J-Roll Readers Club and is especially supportive of the Library’s efforts to be a safe haven for children. The Phillie Phanatic, an author in his own right, joined the celebration.
In addition to Goode, campaign co-chair Richard Greenawalt was present at the event. The third campaign co-chair, Naomi Post Street, was unable to attend.
Designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, the 180,000-square-foot addition to the historic Beaux Arts Central Library on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will dramatically increase access to the Library’s extensive collections, and provide a multitude of new services. These new services herald a new role for the Central Library--that of a center of community activity and discourse. A new Teen Center, the Sunoco Internet Center, extensive public meeting space, a soaring atrium with retail establishments, a new auditorium, and 300 public access computers, are among the myriad of new and improved services.
Some changes are already underway--even before the new addition is built. The main lobby has been restored and currently has an exhibition highlighting the plans for the New Central Library. A new H.O.M.E. Page Café with wireless internet service, in partnership with Project H.O.M.E and Metropolitan Bakery, will be unveiled this summer; and plans for a Parkway Visitors Center just outside the Library are in the works.
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The Free Library of Philadelphia system consists of 49 branches, three regional libraries, the Central Library, and the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. With more than six million visits annually, the Free Library is one of the most widely-used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia.