Lovett Memorial Library

A 21st Century Library

Our next stop is on Germantown Avenue, right on the border between East and West Mount Airy.* Lovett Memorial Library was built in the late 1800s, but it was recently majorly renovated as one of four 21st Century Libraries. When it reopened in December 2017, Lovett had elevators, loads of computers, incredible lighting, and hammocks as far as the eye could see. It’s not exactly hammock season, but I promise they’re there. You can see them from the reading porch. Oh yeah — did I mention there’s a flippin’ reading porch?

(Technically it’s on the east side. Not to split hairs. Or neighborhoods.)

Front entrance and sign for Lovett Memorial
The circular sign says “retro,” the expansive windows say “21st Century Library”

Before we go any further, I have a disclaimer. This is the branch I spend the most time in. I’m not trying to play favorites, but I’m extra enthusiastic about this one. I mean, this is the branch where I pick up my holds. It’s the conduit for the books I’m most excited about. How can I not have a little bonus affection for it?

Anywho, we’re starting outside. To the right of the entrance, we have a recently renewed World War I memorial. Until the renovation, the memorial had just been a rock. At least, it had just been a rock for the past 40 years or so. According to Ken Finkel, that’s about when the plaques were stolen. The new signage is less enticing to thieves.

Large boulder with plaque placed in front of library
World War I memorial to the “Boys of Mount Airy” at the Lovett entrance

Behind the memorial, we can see some of my favorite new library furniture. On warmer days, patrons might enjoy their books on these fun and colorful chairs. The hammocks are outside the frame, but sitting on some enticing grass to the right of the building.

Let’s go inside

Even on a cloudy day, Lovett is bright and inviting. This seating area is right on the other side of the windows in the photo above. There are lots of spots with outlets for working, and cozy armchairs for lounging.

Photo from an armchair in the front of the library
The front seating area features both countertop seating and armchairs

Off to the left, there’s an open common space with booths, chairs, and tables. There’s also a study room, which patrons can reserve in advance.

In the background, you can see the Children’s Library section. The four 21st Century Libraries were all outfitted with spaces for children and teens. This space is colorful and expansive, with picture books as far as the eye can see. The children’s librarian hosts weekly story times. This is also one of the branches where kids can read to a non-judgmental, non-intimidating, very cute therapy dog.

Rows of children's picture books
Picture books line one wall of the children’s section. Outside the window, there’s a long reading porch for nice weather. (Despite appearances, there were actual kids there. I just tried to keep them out of the photos.)

I learned during a conversation with a delightful librarian that, while Lovett has a children’s librarian, they don’t have a teen librarian. They’re doing their best to create safe spaces for teens, but it’s a challenge. After all, most programs require people.

Round booth with sign for times for teen-only seating
Teens get their own tables on weekday afternoons

To that end, our enthusiastic local librarian is looking for teen-friendly volunteers. If you can believe it, I’ve never volunteered at the library. I thought that library volunteering would involve books, mostly, but there’s so much more! Here at Lovett, they’re looking for someone to come play X-Box with teens once a week. Yup. You can volunteer to play video games. They’d also be thrilled to have someone teach coding classes to teens once a month. To work with kids, you’ll need to be reliable and to get a child abuse history clearance. You’ll also need to be down with kids and libraries.

The Original Lovett Library

If you head upstairs, you’ll find the original Lovett Memorial Library space, which is now a meeting room. I chose this particular Saturday to visit Lovett because they’ve been hosting weekly meditation classes in that very meeting room. This workshop was in the Sahaja Yoga tradition, which I had no previous experience with. I learned something new and walked out feeling lighter than when I walked in.

While the original library is no longer filled with books, it retains some elements of its early years. One of my favorite features of this room is the fireplace. The fireplace was erected in the late 1800s, just like the rest of the original library, and it has tiles featuring quotes from authors. You know how you’ll often see quotes from authors that include the year the author was born and the year the author died? These dates were included on the tiles, and they’ve never been updated. This might lead an unsuspecting viewer to believe that some of our authors from the mid-19th century are still alive today.

Tiled fireplace with brass fixtures
This original fireplace from 1887 still sits in what is now a meeting room

Above the fireplace hangs a portrait of Thomas Robert Lovett. Lovett Memorial Library was erected in his honor by his sister, Charlotte Lovett Bostwick, who was also the aunt of one of the three founding members of the library. Those three were Reverend Simeon Hill, Mrs. Samuel Potter, and Miss Louisa Lovett. There were a whole lotta Lovetts involved in this library.

The rest of the second floor

The meeting room isn’t the only space on the second floor. This is also where you’ll find the quiet room. Yes, there’s a quiet room at the library!

The second floor also contains the computer lab. There are loads of reservable computers available. Looking for DVDs? You’ll find rows and rows lining the computer lab space.

Basically, there are lots of places to set up shop and camp out in this branch. Got an exam to study for, research to do, a programming language to learn, or a stack of books to read? Lovett’s got you covered. There are outlets if you bring your own computer, computers if you don’t have (or like) your own, and empty tables if you just need space to spread out.

The swag

Covers of The Personality Brokers and The Whispering Muse
The Personality Brokers by Merve Emre and The Whispering Muse by Sjón

Remember how I mentioned that this is the branch where I pick up my holds? Well, I picked up a hold: The Personality Brokers, all about the Myers-Briggs personality assessment. Did you know that Myers and Briggs were a mother-daughter team? Or that Isabel Briggs graduated from Swarthmore College in 1919? Or that Isabel Briggs and her husband taught Sunday school at the Unitarian Church of Germantown? I didn’t know about any of this.

My second selection, which I haven’t started yet, is The Whispering Muse by Sjón. I chose this work of fiction because the author is Icelandic, and it’s cold outside. It’s a very scientific process.

The summary

Lovett Memorial Library is a sunny branch that’s great for lounging and working in. There aren’t a ton of books, but the space is open and community-oriented. Plus, there are loads of picture books and special programs for the kids. When the weather is nice, don’t miss the reading porch or the hammocks outside.

Mosaic on library with image of tree and the phrase "Everything you need to know you can learn under this tree"
This mosaic says it all.

Official JOTR Rating:
📚📚🖥🌿👩‍👧‍👦🔆

That’s it for this tour. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next time!

Do you frequent Lovett Memorial Library? Do you have any hot tips about this location? Let us know in the comments!

Our maiden voyage: Walnut Street West Library

“The United Nations Library”

Welcome sign hanging in atrium
Welcome to the library!

The Walnut Street West branch quietly stands on the southeast corner of 40th and Walnut. It’s a beautiful building, yet it’s easy to walk right by. It sits on the edge of the University of Pennsylvania’s campus, blending in with academic buildings. The librarian we spoke with told us that he had been unable to find any other public library on a college campus, which makes it particularly stealthy. My friend Marta, who joined me on this outing, hadn’t even noticed it before.

I had never step foot inside. The building looks pretty tall from the outside — 3 stories at least — so the lowish ceilings on the first floor were a surprise. When we arrived, an enthusiastic host was welcoming teens for their regular sci-fi role playing game. The entrance is cozy, with a circulation desk and a few meeting rooms. When we looked up from the desk, we realized we were standing in an atrium.

The tour

The books and movies are all upstairs. Pass the copy equipment and step into an open, airy space. It was cold and dark at 5:30pm (thanks, winter), but it felt like a warm day outside in this branch. The yellow paint, the high, open rafters, and the cascading plants on the shelves combined for an other-seasonly experience.

Image of a library aisle shows the very high ceilings, open rafters, and plants on tops of shelves
So spacious and airy (photo by Marta Rusek)

When we asked a librarian for his favorite part about the branch, he first said the ceilings. Then he paused, and clarified that his real favorite part was how many international visitors come to the library. Partly because of the neighborhood and partly because of the university, library patrons come from all over the world. He referred to the Walnut Street West branch as the “United Nations library”. It’s not a huge branch, but it has a large foreign film section, a whole aisle of books in languages other than English, and an extensive language learning collection. This branch also hosts conversation groups for people learning English as a Second Language. 

CDs labeled in a variety of languages
Look at all the languages to learn!

The Walnut Street West branch has quite the delightful children’s section. It’s vibrant and inviting. I would have loved this space as a kid. Plus, there’s a tiny mailbox up front for kids to suggest books! 

This branch also has more nooks than I expected. There’s even a bean bag chair hiding in a corner.

Branch facts

The swag

When I told my friend Rana about my library adventures, she jokingly asked if the library had given me any swag. We laughed about t-shirts & bottle openers. Then I realized that the library gives me swag all the time. BOOK SWAG.

Covers of The Only Harmless Great Thing and What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky
Walnut Street West book swag

I tried to keep my selections reasonable since I already had 9 books checked out. I picked up Lesley Nneka Arimah’s collection of stories first. It looked so inviting in the new fiction section. Plus the jacket says the author “was born in the UK and grew up in Nigeria and wherever else her father was stationed for work,” which went nicely with the United Nations Library theme. Then I noticed Brooke Bolander’s 89-page alternate history, and it was too weird to leave behind.

The summary

This is a great library for kids, people who want to learn new languages, and anyone looking to squash those winter blues.

Official JOTR Rating:
📚📚📚🌏☀🌱

Have you visited the Walnut Street West branch? What’s your favorite thing about it? Let me know in the comments!