(Kelly Bennett, Ferndale Public Library, The Ferndale 115 News, April 1, 2012 ed.)
A broken bell, a wall of skulls, a market full of gastronomic delights and 8500 librarians. A snapshot of Philadelphia during the semi-annual Public Library Association Conference (March 13-17); my personal snapshot. My primary concern before heading to the City of Brotherly Love was being prepared for my presentation, which I was giving on Friday, March 16. I was asked to present by Kevin King, Head of Patron Services at Kalamazoo Public Library nearly two years ago, Kevin had attended a presentation I had given at Michigan Library Association’s annual conference on local music and concerts at libraries. Fast-forward to March 2012 and I’m in the beautiful Philadelphia, on my own for the most part, during the most beautiful week of the year.
As soon as I left the airport, the sightseeing began. Coming from Detroit, any experience with mass transit is a novelty. The train and subway system in Philly is great. I was able to ride straight from the airport to my hotel (literally, there was a stop underneath the Philadelphia Convention Center), for $7.00.
I wasted no time on Tuesday, practically running out of the hotel and into the city. For years, I’ve wanted to visit the Mütter Museum, a part of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, and a place of macabre wonder. The old-fashioned museum is filled to the brim with specimens in jars, wax molds of disfiguring diseases, skulls and preserved body parts. It’s not for the faint of heart, nor was it originally for the general public. All of the items in the Mütter were used in the 18th and 19th centuries to teach physicians their trade. Of particular interest were the conjoined twin specimens, a peculiar example of the precarious nature of life.
The following days were spent meeting new friends in the library world and learning new approaches to work in public libraries. I learned about creative funding for libraries, using an industrial engineering approach to streamlining library processes, collecting zines and local music, and lots of personal insights from the librarians I met. I was privileged to see Robert Kennedy, Jr speak about the environment and to see Betty White close out the conference with her funny tales of her youth and career. I visited the fantastic Reading Terminal Market, which was jammed with librarians finding lunch at the dozens of restaurants and food vendors inside. Philadelphia City Hall, topped with a bronze statue of William Penn is a beautiful place and the subject of many of my photos. Being St. Patrick’s Day weekend, I stopped in a few of Philadelphia’s pubs, including McGillin’s Olde Ale House, which opened its doors the year Abraham Lincoln was elected President.
My presentation, “Backstage Pass to Concerts at Your Library” was well received, in no small part because of my partner and our special guest, Wesley Stace, known to many as singer/songwriter, John Wesley Harding. Kevin King and I gave practical advice on how to begin a concert series at a library, and then Wes charmed the audience (and us) by reading three pages from a novel he had finished two days before. He then blew us all away by playing three new songs.
On my last day in Philadelphia, I walked the mile from my hotel to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Congress Hall and Benjamin Franklin’s grave. Philadelphia is teeming with history, but it does so in a really unassuming way. Yes, these places draw tourists, but the charming buildings stand there waiting to be discovered, not shouting for you to come in. The city, our nation’s first capital, is a lot like that, majestic but unassuming, cool but not flashy.
Kelly Bennett is a librarian at the Ferndale Public Library, and is the driving force behind many of the Library’s music programs, including First Stop Fridays, and the Local Music Collection. She maintains the 780.00s Blog as well.
Find out more about educational and entertaining opportunities at the Ferndale Public Library’s website: http://www.ferndale.lib.mi.us/.