Where are you originally from?
R: I grew up in East Oak Lane.
L: I actually grew up on Long Island in New York. I moved to Philadelphia in 2003 after college. I’ve lived in a few different areas in Philadelphia, but I’ve been in South Philadelphia for the majority of my time.
How did you first become familiar with the Lower Moyamensing Civic Association?
R: When the organization started they were looking for a place to hold their meetings and ended up having their original meeting in the Fumo library’s meeting room. They still have some of their meetings there actually, that’s how I got to know the folks.
L: I’ve only been at this branch as the children’s librarian since September, but they really are a presence in our branch. They support us, and in return we try to support all of their activities. They have very spirited meetings, and they bring snacks [laughs].
How long have you been a librarian at the Fumo branch?
R: I’ve worked at this branch for almost ten years. Yeah, it’s a long time.
L: In library years it’s longer [laughs].
What do you like most about this branch in particular?
R: I think this branch has a real sense of community. You really feel like you’re right in the middle of a neighborhood. We’re a small branch, so we know all the patrons, and it just has a really nice, friendly feeling to it. You just feel like everybody knows each other, it’s really warm.
L: Being a small room – and the children’s library taking up half of it – it’s actually a really nice space for kids. A lot of the parents come in and they’ve been to other branches, and they go ‘Wow! Your department is so bright and vibrant!’ I also think that having everything in one area, where parents know where their kids are at all times, really provides a lot for them. The space has a real feel to it and I think we’re actually a bit rowdier than some of the other branches [laughs].
The Fumo branch has a lot of children’s programs. Can you tell me more about them?
L: We do a lot. Primarily we partner with local daycares for story time, which I really enjoy. The daycares schedule times to come in, usually around once a month, and they come from all over with the kids, and those kids are great. One staple that we’ve had for as long as anyone can remember is the toddler story time for one and two year olds at 10am on Wednesdays. That’s a lot of music and movement; we do a lot of dancing. They come in and they’re really energetic; their parents and grandparents come in with them and they just have a great time. We’re also starting to incorporate crafts into our story times on Tuesday afternoons, and I’m actually going to be doing a pajama story time on Thursday evenings. That is going to involve a lot of puppets, the kids get really excited. I just want them to be more involved and act stuff out. That program will also be a smaller group free-form, and they’ll really be out on the floor, amongst the books. Overall, I’m really excited.
Why do you think it is important to get out and go to the library as opposed to just reading at home?
L: I find that for the little ones, their parents actually bring them here because they want to start them socializing. You know, because they’re at home with just their parents all day, or they’re only children for the moment. It is a good way to socialize them and get them used to being in public places, which can sometimes be a challenge. You want someplace that’s friendly, but also willing to provide them with what they need. Even with the teens it’s a good place to go to discover somewhere new. There’s a lot of learning in this branch.
R: Even for adults, you know, people keep talking about libraries becoming obsolete, ‘Oh everything is on the internet’, but I feel like – it’s all free. You can come and borrow books, magazines, music, DVDs, anything. We have a lot available online as well, but you come in here and everything is free. Where else do you get that? It’s also really green. Everything is being re-used; you’re not buying one book and then throwing it out when you move.
L: And most people don’t even know about all of the services we offer. We do interlibrary loans, which is something that a lot of academic libraries offer as well. We provide a lot of academic materials, particularly to a lot of the kids going to Temple [University].
R: We have a lot of databases you can access with your library card. If you’re looking for peer reviewed articles or scholarly journals, its all there through the database, and you know, again, everything is free… Actually, this is going to sound crazy – I spent my whole life in libraries, but it wasn’t until I started working for a library that I found out you could borrow the magazines [laughs]… Also a lot of elementary schools and most of the high schools – a majority – don’t have libraries anymore, sadly, so they use us.
What is your favorite local spot in the area?
R: I love Caffe Chicco [2532 S Broad Street]. They have great coffee and a fantastic roast beef sandwich.
L: I have to explore the area a bit more. I just go to Primo [Hoagies] all the time and everyone is like ‘Oh you’ve gotta go here, you’ve gotta go there.’ I’m so new, I’m just like “I will get there, I take all recommendations” [laughs].
What is something you would add to the community that it doesn’t have?
R: Well one thing I’ve really seen LoMo trying to do – make more green space with all of the gardening and tree plantings, and their gardening project at South Philly High. I think they’re really making huge changes in that area.
What’s one word you would use to describe the LoMo area?
L: Definitely thriving. You hear so many people saying ‘I just moved to the area!’ It’s really getting bigger and people want to get involved. It’s just really nice that it’s growing.
Would you like to say anything else about the library?
R: We show an Italian film, with English subtitles, once a month – the third Wednesday of the month – at 12:45pm. Also, we have a collaboration with Philly Poets Journal and they do three readings here a month. I’d really encourage people to come by, get on our mailing list, and just meet the friendly folks at the Fumo Family Branch!
R: And we have free WiFi and a fantastic quirky, independent film collection!
There you have it! The Friendly Fumo Free Library – you don’t find alliteration like that everyday!
– Interview by Tylor Augustine
Editor’s note: In 2008, the Fumo Family Library Branch was targeted for closure as part of a series of proposed budget cuts. LoMo was actively involved in meeting with library officials and our elected representatives to express our objection to this proposal and on November 24, 2008, a large community protest was organized on South Broad Street. Click here for WHYY’s coverage of our demonstration. Even though budgetary shortcomings and staff shortages continue to affect the quality of our library system still today, we are thankful that our local branch was spared. Since 2008, we have urged all residents to actively use and support our local branch. We’ve got to use it, or lose it! If you don’t already have a library card, please sign up for one today.