About a month ago I was visiting my brother in Philly and decided to take a trip to the Parkway Central branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. While there I spoke with Marion Parkinson, a reference librarian in the Education, Philosophy and Religion room. I chose to visit the Free Library because I had never been there. I chose the Parkway Central Library because it’s only about a mile from my brother’s place (at least until he moves to Jersey at the end of the month). Unfortunately I didn’t have Instagram on my phone at the time, so I don’t have a pretty picture of the facade.
Marion told me that it was a “complete accident” that she became a librarian. In fact, for most of her life she didn’t want to be a librarian, but she believes that was largely due to her first name. She said that when she was growing up The Music Man was a very popular movie. One of the stars of the movie, Shirley Jones, plays the town librarian, Marian Paroo. There’s even a song in the soundtrack called “Marian the Librarian.” I told her I could understand how that could turn someone off the idea of becoming a librarian. Despite her childhood associations, she started working
at the Free Library as a computer tech. In early 2000 she was given an opportunity to join the library trainee program, which would pay for her library science studies. She really enjoyed working at the Free Library, so she joined the trainee program in June 2000.
The Free Library of Philadelphia has 54 branches. Its social media presence includes a blog, a YouTube page (the featured video currently features the Phillie Phanatic), and a podcast. There are many different services offered by the various branches. The Parkway Central branch offers adult education classes and the LEAP after-school program for grades 1-12. Additionally, all the author events hosted by the Free Library are held at the Parkway Central branch (the author events are recorded for the podcast). The Parkway Central branch also holds some of the Free Library’s special collections, such as rare books collections and the automobile reference collection.
Would I like to work here? Well, it’s in Philadelphia, which is currently the only requirement I have for my dream job. I also think that working in a public library, especially in a large metropolitan area, would be very fulfilling. I’d imagine working reference in a library like this one would rarely get boring. On the other hand, the reference librarians at the Parkway Central branch are specialized to the areas that correspond to the rooms they’re in (in Marion’s case, Education, Philosophy and Religion). She also told me that they get a lot of regulars in her room that don’t need reference help and she spends more of her time assigning computers than answering face-to-face reference questions.
Parkway Central Library
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia PA 19103
Hours of Operation
Monday – Thursday: 9 AM – 9 PM
Friday: 9 AM – 6 PM
Saturday: 9 AM – 5 PM
Sunday: 1 PM – 5 PM