I feel very lucky that we can walk to two different branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia from our West Philly home. One of the branches is the Walnut Street West branch which is on the corner of Walnut and 40th St. I love the location because it's within a block of a bank, grocery store and post office - so I can combine the trip with some errands.
We focus our time at the library almost exclusively in the Children's section - so that's what I'm going to cover for the review, but I would like to mention that I browse the online card catalog at home and place holds on any books I'd like to read so I can just pick them up when I bring Leo. It's a great tool because toddlers don't really have the patience for browsing the adult books.
The children's section is bright and cheery (with great light even on overcast days).
There is an activity table with puzzles and crayons.
The board books are on low shelves under the benches - which is a great set up. I remember before Leo was crawling I would plop him down in front of these shelves and he would be happy pulling books off the shelves (which I always put away before we left!) while I chose a few to bring home with us.
There are two dedicated computers in the children's section of the library - the most interaction I've had with them though is repeatedly shooing Leo away from them. The kid loves buttons.
I remember thinking it was a small library my first time visiting - but since then I've been consistently impressed with the selection they have packed into these shelves. Also, don't forget that if you don't see what you are looking for you can request it and they will have it waiting for your next visit.
The section we use the most is the children's foreign language section. I always try to make sure we bring home several books in Spanish from each visit - but the section is not limited to Spanish. There are a wide variety of languages represented and books appropriate for a range of ages.
I've found the librarians to be very nice and super helpful - and I ask A LOT of questions. The library also hosts classes and story times. Currently there is a story time offered on Thursday mornings at 10:30 am (but the day and time can vary from season to season, so be sure and call first) as well as Spanish classes for kids on Monday and Wednesday afternoons.
Libraries are a fantastic, if endangered resource and I feel really fortunate to have two nearby. It's pretty amazing that Leo has had hundreds of different books read to him in his short life - we certainly couldn't afford a collection of that size. It's my hope that Leo will grow up with fond memories of visits to these libraries and a love for reading.