If the turnout during Wednesday’s workforce entry-level job fair at the Central Library is any indication, there is no shortage of able-bodied Philadelphians looking for a decent job.
To help these job-seekers in their search, the Citizens Bank Foundation donated a $20,000 grant to underwrite the annual job fair.
“The Free Library of Philadelphia is absolutely committed to ensuring a bright economic future for all Philadelphians, and the workforce job fair is an incredible resource for job-searching community members,” said Siobhan A. Reardon, president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia. “Not only can they network and meet potential employers, they can learn how to prepare themselves for every aspect of the search.
“Every year, the Free Library helps thousands of people get jobs through the comprehensive services we have in each of our library locations.”
Reardon expects more than 1,000 people to obtain employment through Wednesday’s fair alone.
Citizens Bank representative Henri Moore and Kevin Dow, the city’s deputy director of commerce, joined Reardon for the announcement, made amidst the din of a hundred or so job seekers in the lobby of the library.
There are actually two annual workshops – the one completed on Wednesday, and another one set for the fall in the Northeast Branch. These workforce job fairs include free online job search, resume critiquing clinic, and workshop. Team Clean, Inc., Unique Advantage, LLC, Community College of Philadelphia, Walgreens, SEPTA, Watermark at Logan Square, the Philadelphia Police Department, Holy redeemer Health System, Citizens Bank and Constellation Energy are just a few of the regional businesses and service providers that participate and make hires at the job fairs.
Although admittance to the annual job fairs are free, one has to either call 215-686-5436, visit the central library in person or click over to http://workplacejobfair2012.eventbrite.com to register for the upcoming fair in the Northeast.
“Without [the library and Citizens bank Foundation] coming together, we wouldn’t be able to create a world-class economic environment in the city of Philadelphia,” said Dow, a moment before Moore presented the $20,000 check. “I’d like to thank the library for creating the workforce job fair program, and I hope everybody takes advantage of it.”
The Citizens Bank Foundation has long been a supporter of various community initiatives throughout the city, having recently donated funds to the African American Museum in Philadelphia, along with prime sponsorship of its $50,000 TruFit Good Citizens Scholarship program, which will benefit college students who volunteer in their respective communities.
“Since 2008, we’ve had people come in seeking assistance, people who typically didn’t have good job search skills or know how to access resources,” Reardon said. “Now they can get that one-on-one connectivity, and it’s in a place that they know and feel comfortable in.”
Free Library, UPenn displaying artifacts
This is the closest historians, archeologists and armchair etymology buffs can get to Africa without actually visiting the Motherland, as cultural icons the Free Library of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archeology and Anthropology will separately provide insights while celebrating humanity’s birthplace.
The Free Library opens its latest Afrocentric exhibit, “Materials Transformed: The Art of African Sculpture” Tuesday May 15, and features more than 100 objects from the more than 50 African countries.
The exhibit, which runs through the end of August, will feature a myriad of artistic creations, including Sierra Leonean mende minsereh figures, a Nigerian Nupe door, kebe-kebe dance staffs used by the Kuyu people and fon bocio – royal metal animal figurines from Benin – among other native indigenous items.
Many of these items belong to the collection of Mary Sue Rosen and Paul Peter Rosen, and provide a striking, three-dimensional view into the culture and craftwork produced in Africa.
“As the Free Library, we are proud to host compelling exhibitions that illuminate and celebrate the diversity of art and culture throughout our city and our world,” said Free Library of Philadelphia Director and President Siobhan A. Reardon. “We are especially thankful to the Rosens for generously sharing items for their vast collections of African art with us, and I encourage all Philadelphians to come and enjoy [this] exhibition.”
The Materials Transformed exhibit will also feature medicine gourds from Tanzania, brass weights from the Ivory Coast and Ghana, along with traditional war and tribal masks from West and Central Africa.
Across town, The University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Anthropology and Archeology will celebrate Africa in its own unique method, by way of the ongoing “Imagine Africa” season-long exhibit and performance presentation.
“An Evening to Imagine Africa” commences at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 23, and the free event features a hybrid, performance-exhibit type of set up. Billed as a free community night, this event will bring together performances by the West Powelton Steppers Drill team and R&B line dance instructor Kenny J, while writers from the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement present their original works to the exhibit attendees.
Members of the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention will also be on hand, offering their expertise during a comic book creation workshop, while officials with Odunde will be on hand to discuss their plans for its upcoming 37th annual street festival, slated for June 10; City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell will host this event.
The “Imagine Africa” series covers a major cross-section of the creativity and culture of the continent. The 12-month run features various programs that will look at Africa through eight distinctive pathways: Imagine Strength; Imagine Changing; Imagine the Devine; Imagine Creating; Imagine Healing; Imagine Power; Imagine Strength and Imagine Fashion. The entire “Imagine Africa” series is designed to be interactive, as it seeks feedback from visitors.
“Imagine Africa with the Penn Museum is a twelve-month project investigating your thoughts.
Visitors will see a small selection from the Penn Museum’s extraordinary African collection, and will be asked for their feedback on what they see,” museum officials stated through a release coinciding with the event. “Community groups will be invited to give us more detailed feedback, and in this way, we will form a picture of what most visitors want to know about the vast continent of Africa.
“With this feedback, the museum will plan a re-installation of the African collection, informed by academic and community perspectives.”
The Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation is asking people to help it meet its fundraising goal of $6 million.
“We’re getting very, very close, which is wonderful,” said Melissa Greenberg, vice president for development at the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation. “We expect that we will reach our goal and exceed it.”
The library relies primarily on small donors.
According to Greenberg, the foundation has 5,000 donors, typically a library user who gives small donations.
This year, in response to a growing number of online users, the foundation reached out to potential donors in its first ever email campaign.
“We’ve never reached out before in this fashion,” she said. “We’re out there a lot more letting people know they can be supportive.”
Donors are asked to give as little as $35.
The email was sent last week, as library officials prepared for the end of the fiscal year. The city and state both provide funding on a calendar that begins July 1. Library officials have stepped up their campaign as the year closes out.
The foundation raises private funds to augment the city’s funding.
“We raise all the private dollars that enable all the things that happen in the libraries to happen beyond what the city pays for,” Greenberg said.
City dollars cover the library’s basic operations, but the foundation provides the money needed to flesh out its programs and added services, like after school programs, summer reading programs, author events, festivals and its growing e-library programs, which includes e-books and music.
Library funding remained level in this year’s city budget. State funding has declined slightly. Falling funding has been the norm over the last five years.
“Our funding over the last five years has been reduced 19 percent,” she said.
Overall funding, which includes state and city funding, has dipped from $51.8 million to $42 million since 2007. Spending on materials, primarily books and electronic resources, has dropped 45 percent from $8.6 million in 2008 to $4.2 million this year.
Falling revenue comes at a time when demand for services is up.
“Big city public libraries have rarely been as popular as they are today — and rarely as besieged,” concluded a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. “Hard economic times have generated increased demand for the services libraries provide, even as they have fewer resources with which to meet these challenges,”
According to Pew, as funding has fallen, use has grown. It’s now estimated that 51 percent of Philadelphians use the public library.
The Free Library of Philadelphia has had 11 percent more visits since 2008, it reported, and circulation was up 12 percent. Use of library computers is up 80 percent.
“City residents now see libraries, particularly neighborhood branches, as multipurpose community centers, offering business services, tax assistance, safe havens for children after school, and places where immigrants can learn English. And libraries still lend books and DVDs,” said the Pew report.
Those facts underscore the importance of private donors.
According to a report released earlier this year by the Pew Charitable Trusts, “reduction means that a lot of things that used to be paid for by those public dollars are now even more so being paid for by private donation,” she said.
Students at the Lucien Blackwell branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia on 52nd Locust Street will have help making the grade thanks to its Literacy Enrichment After-school Program (LEAP).
Under the LEAP program, students can come to the library and receive individual homework assistance and help with their school assignments right at the library.
“LEAP is homework help for children and teens as well as table-top literacy activities which are fun activities related to books,” said Nani Manion, who heads the West Philadelphia Regional Libraries children’s department.
While downstairs, visitors of the 52nd street Library have traditional access to computers, books and other resources typically found in local branches, the upstairs is converted into a center for children and teens where they enter a world created solely with them in mind.
“Once you get to the second floor you kind of in an oasis with beautiful sky-lights, open space, lots of colorful books; it’s a very warm, welcoming, colorful environment and is an environment just for the children,” Manion said.
Despite the openness, she noted afterschool the children’s section is very serious about focusing on homework.
“We are pretty tough after school,” Manion said. “We have computers for older children, we have pre-school children, and a pre-school center, we have magazines, graphic novels –we have pretty much everything up here.”
Several computers are set aside during after school hours specifically for homework help assignments at the Lucien Blackwell Regional branch.
Youth seeking help with homework assignments are asked to come prepared.
“We encourage children and families to come in with their homework assignments and any materials you need because sometimes we can’t get what the teacher is asking for in regards to their homework assignments,” Manion said.
She said students will also need writing utensils, paper, their library card and some change in case they need to print something.
“Come in as prepared as you can be and we will be glad to sit down and help you get some homework done,” Manion said.
To help meet the demand of school students, the library actually hires additional staff for the LEAP program.
“I actually have a LEAP team, and we have a LEAP team leader who is a college graduate and we also have three teenagers so we are always working on positive youth development,” Manion said.
She relies upon the teens because of their familiarity with new school materials such as “the new math.”
“A few of us older folks weren’t taught that way and so we really count on our teens to help with the new ways in which concepts are being taught,” Manion said.
Tara Murphy is the LEAP manager and says that the program is extended throughout the city although hours of operation might vary depending on location.
She said most students stumble onto the program since there are no registration requirements and students can just come in and request assistance.
“[LEAP Teen assistants] are employed from local high schools, they are neighborhood kids who have been bought up in the afterschool program and appear to be more of the role-models or coaches,” Murphy said.
For additional assistance, those with computers at home can use the online homework assistance service provided by Brainfuse, where its tutors are masters or doctoral degree candidates and have at least two decades worth of experience.
Students who use Brainfuse can get help with essays, math problems or other homework assignments.
“We’re really trying to spread the word that we have the LEAP program in all of the free library branches across the city and sometimes it’s underutilized,” Murphy said.
For more information about the LEAP schedule at your local library, you can call (215) 686-5372.
An estimated 41 percent of Philadelphia residents lack Internet access at home. In a move to change this, national nonprofit Connect2Compete has teamed up with local partners to launch EveryoneOn, a national campaign designed to connect residents with free digital literacy training classes, discounted high speed Internet and affordable computers.
The initiative was announced Monday afternoon during an event held at the Central Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
“America is fast becoming a land of digital natives. This technological manifest destiny means that it is not only imperative for all of our citizens to be connected with broadband services, they must also become fully digitally literate. Only then will we realize full societal participation along with optimal market and economic prosperity,” said Mignon L. Clyburn, Federal Communications commissioner.
“This is why initiatives like Connect2Compete are so important. They have the capacity to uplift those who remain on the digital sidelines and each of us has the ability to play a role ensuring that more of our friends and neighbors excel because of it.”
The EveryoneOn campaign is funded for three years in Philadelphia by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Donna Frisby Greenwood, the Knight Foundation’s Philadelphia program director, said what is so unique about the new initiative is that it connects residents to digital literacy training. The digital literacy training will be offered throughout the Free Library of Philadelphia’s 80 KEYSPOTS. The KEYSPOTS provide free computer use and Internet access throughout the city.
“It’s not just about access anymore. What a lot of research has shown and the work that that we did in Detroit several years ago showed us is that having access to computers and the Internet is not enough, people also need to have the digital skills training. It has to make sense to people. Once they have that training they really understand the use of having technology in their daily lives,” said Frisby Greenwood.
EveryoneOn is being launched at a time when having digital literacy is essential for accessing educational and employment opportunities and certain government benefits.
Through partnerships with Philadelphia Internet providers such as Freedom Pop, Comcast and Wilco Electronic Systems, Connect2Compete will connect low-income citizens to programs that offer free and low-cost Internet services. Internet service will range from $9.95 to $14.95 per month depending on the provider.
“This is one of those programs that is an outgrowth of our president’s initiative to want to spread and deploy broadband as far and wide as possible within the United States,” said Brigitte F. Daniel, executive vice president of Wilco, an African American owned cable provider.
“I think that the more that we can have different types of collaborations such as this, the more Philadelphia is going to be able to thrive and survive as a city of innovation and a city that has access for all its people.”
Through a host of hardware and software partners, Connect2Computer will provide the opportunity to purchase new and refurbished computers.
The local launch of EveryoneOne comes as the city marks Philly Tech Week, a week-long celebration of technology and innovation in Philadelphia.
“EveryoneOn allows for all Philadelphia residents the chance for better, brighter and more technology-enabled future,” Zach Leverenz, CEO of Connect2Compete said in a release.
“Philadelphia is a thriving city with an excellent education, health, nonprofit and business environment and ensuring that community members can access this information via the Internet is essential. We are thrilled to work with local partners to make this possible.”
EveryoneOn is being targeted toward certain zip codes in the city. Residents can determine whether they are eligible for the program by visiting one of the city’s 80 Keyspots, calling 1(855) EVRY1ON or visit www.EveryoneOn.org.
In a historic move, the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation and The Rosenbach Museum & Library tannounced their intent to merge, creating The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation. The affiliation will bring together two of the world’s preeminent collections of rare books, artifacts and manuscripts, including Bram Stoker’s “Notes for Dracula” with Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” thus creating one of the greatest collections of rare books, manuscripts, Americana and art anywhere in the world.
“The aim of this partnership is to build and sustain collections of Americana and English literature that are among the greatest in the world while furthering Philadelphia’s status as an educational and cultural leader,” said Siobhan A. Reardon, president and director of the Free Library of the partnership.
The Rosenbach of the Free Library will remain at its current Delancey Place location, will be maintained under the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, and will be funded through private philanthropic support. The merger will be made possible by a bridge fund combining the generous support of many philanthropic partners over the next five years, including The Pew Charitable Trusts.
“The Rosenbach Museum and Library and the Free Library of Philadelphia have both worked to advance what they call ‘the life of the mind’ for many years. In combination, they become a stronger, more robust institution,” said William Penn Foundation Board Chair David Haas. “Their collections and programming complement each other effectively, increasing opportunities for learning, exploration and creative pursuits by residents of all ages, and reinforcing Philadelphia as a vibrant, innovative city with world-class culture.”
The planned merger formalizes a long relationship between the Free Library and The Rosenbach Museum & Library that goes back more than 65 years. One of the Library’s first gifts of rare books was from the A.S.W. Rosenbach Collection of Early American Children’s Books in 1947. Dr. Rosenbach was a Library Trustee and served as the adviser to many of the Free Library’s Rare Book Department donors—such as Colonel Richard A. Gimbel, P.A. B. Widener, and William Elkins—giving the Free Library great strength in early Americana, British literature, and Judaica, among others.
“The partnership between the Free Library and The Rosenbach Museum and Library makes perfect sense, from our joint historical past to our aligned missions to inspire curiosity,” said Derick Dreher, Director of The Rosenbach Museum & Library. “Uniting these two great collections will result in increased community and scholarly interest, boost educational programming, produce stellar exhibitions, and create a bright future for some of the rarest and most precious collections in existence.”
City Council, in an otherwise uneventful session, passed two resolutions, with one dealing with advertising on municipal buildings and properties, and the other to consider Councilman David Oh’s bill that would cause the city to receive and disburse late fee funds from the Free Library of Philadelphia network.
Bill 130109, reintroduced this week by Council President Darrell Clarke after Clarke initially introduced the bill in February, will amend the Philadelphia Code’s “Public Property” entry, and calls for council to provide a “a comprehensive plan for the placement of advertising on municipal property.”
“Digital advertising has become an effective way for governments to communicate public service messages and real time conditions such as weather and road conditions in conjunction with commercial advertising,” read, in part, a selection of Clarke’s bill. “[It would also allow] advertising, including digital advertising, to be placed on municipal property would provide the City with an effective means of communicating public service messages in tandem with commercial advertising messages.”
While Clarke’s bill required little in the way of explanation, Oh sought to clarify his bill, one which would amend the Philadelphia Code’s “Parks and Recreation” entry pertaining to libraries.
While Oh’s bill requires “the imposition of fines by The Free Library of Philadelphia for the loss or late return of borrowed materials for all patrons including adults and children, and The Free Library of Philadelphia to spend net revenues from such fines collected by children for the benefit enhancing technology and youth specific programming,” Oh clarified the situation, noting that there are hundreds of thousands of uncollected return dues that the city could use, or in lieu of city action, the library system itself could use those recouped funds to improve its technology and provide more services.
“One of the more important issues to come before this body is the funding the local branch libraries, and the challenges they have in providing not only the time for children and parents to come to the library, but also the resources, such as computers, and other types of programs,” Oh said. “Recently, the [Nutter] Administration announced it would no longer collect fees from late children’s books. I think it’s very well-intended, but I have a few issues with that.
“If the problem is that children who have late books are not allowed to use library resources, that can simply be remedied,” Oh continued. “But late fees are substantial; it was $430,000 last year, and three years ago, it was $700.000; this is money no one is complaining about. If the city doesn’t want the money, I think it should be placed in a separate fund to be distributed to the branches, so they can get some of the funding they need and have been requesting to provide programs for children.”