Now in its fourth year, the Free Library Festival on its way to becoming a Philadelphia tradition. Launched as the Philadelphia Book Festival in 2007, it is an annual two-day celebration of books, music, people and ideas, hosted by the Free Library of Philadelphia at the Parkway Central Library.
The festival weekend is packed with free programming for all ages, including talks by bestselling authors, poetry readings, musical performances, and programs and activities just for children.
The two-day event also features a Street Fair and Literary Marketplace with more than 70 exhibitors. A fun, free way to spend the day, the Free Library Festival connects book lovers from throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
The Free Library will host more than 50 authors on-stage at the 2010 Free Library Festival, including Tina Campbell of the urban gospel duo Mary Mary, talk show host Chelsea Handler, Sapphire, author of “Push,” basis for the award-winning film, “Precious,” Man Booker Prize winner Yann Martel, Edgar Award-winning mystery author Harlan Coben, Oprah Winfrey biographer Kitty Kelley, pop singer/songwriter Tommy James, a reading and performance by Antonino D’Ambrosio about the making of Johnny Cash’s “Bitter Tears” album, New York Times bestselling novelist Chang-rae Lee, the story of a road trip with the late David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky, and many more. In addition to appearances by celebrity authors, there will be engaging children’s programs, live music and other performances, including a Street Fair and Literary Marketplace featuring numerous literary exhibitors — including publishers, booksellers, independent authors and cultural organizations.
“It’s grown beautifully,” said Sandra A. Horrocks, vice president, Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation. “We’re attracting top authors. Both days start with great people. On Saturday we start with Tina Campbell of Mary, Mary and Kitty Kelly with her new Oprah book. And, on Saturday, we have the Story Slam with Philadelphia against Washington, D.C. Last year it was Philadelphia versus Chicago — and of course, Philly won. So, I’m sure our team will do just great. On Sunday, we start with Sapphire, who you know is enormous and will have a packed house. And we have wonderful activities for kids both days with an outdoor stage with storybook characters that will be around both days to delight children. There are incredible activities and it’s just an amazing day. Every space in the library and outside the library is just full of activity.”
The festival is a free, public event that draws upwards of 35,000 booklovers from across the mid-Atlantic region each year. The event also demonstrates a recession-era success story for the Philadelphia library system that was threatened with 2008 closures as a result of fiscal trimming.
“I think what we all learned a year and a half ago is how deeply, deeply committed our customers are to the library system,” said Horrocks. “People spoke up and out elected officials heard them. Residents want their libraries and I think people were surprised at how loud, strong and forceful our supporters, or customers, are. I don’t think people will put the library on the chopping block ever again. The community leads it and wants it.”
The Fourth Annual Free Library Festival takes place on Saturday and Sunday, April 17 and 18 at the Central Library, 1901 Vine St. For information on the festival program and events, call (215) 686-5322 or visit www.library.phila.gov.