Filling the Free Library Lavatory Void

The imminent $110 overhaul of Philadelphia’s Free Library gives me feelings of hope and despair. Hope because the renovations may finally make the library accessible, practical, and fun for patrons. Despair because–a tear–I don’t live in the neighborhood anymore. When I was an unemployed Art Museum area resident, the library was a three-block walk, and I visited daily. The goal was to churn out 1,000 words of writing a day and thus prove that I wasn’t a full-time loafer. However, the plan never clicked, for a number of reasons. There were no good places tether my laptop; local hoods routinely commandeered the computer banks to porn surf; and the books were confusingly organized. Worst of all was the bathroom situation. Because there was only one restroom, down two flights of stairs in the basement, and because my morning routine mandated a Venti Starbucks, my bladder was always teetering on the brink of a horrific, messy accident. Eventually, I became so obsessive about my daily library routine and, paradoxically, addicted to caffeine, I considered getting one of those strap-on urinal bags, the kind you slip under your slacks and clip directly to your pee-pee.

The Moshe Safdie addition should correct some of the library’s problems. As Inga Saffron’s recent Inquirer article explains, the new wing will be on the back of the library, thus preserving the beautiful neoclassical facade on the Parkway. But it will be truly modern, with huge glass windows, large seating areas, convenient browsing areas (ala Barnes & Noble), and, presumably, a great view of the Fresh Fields supermarket. Still no news on the bathroom situation, but with the extension jutting all the way to Callowhill Street, I suspect crossing the street to the Starbucks loo will at least be an option.

Incidentally, I love Inga Saffron. Her stories are always the most readable and provocative in our local rag — plus, she’s cute, too. If crusading newspaper architecture critics were available to perform wedding ceremonies, I’d hire her in a second.