by Stan Cutler

The Free Library of Philadelphia prohibits the use of its facilities for political purposes. This is a good and necessary rule. But how can we abide by the rule when literacy itself is under attack by a political force? The President is antagonistic toward everything the library for which the library stands. But I do not work for the library – I am merely a “friend,” one of hundreds of Philadelphians who are organized to support the institution as a civic responsibility. Donald Trump is the elephant in our room, a politician who has made literacy and civil discourse political issues.

Last Tuesday, local journalist Peter Lewis delivered a talk on fake news to an audience of 50 in our branch library’s community room. Peter put the concept into historical perspective, concluding with the 21st-century collapse of local newspapers and the disturbing prospect of an America without them. The big crowd was fully engaged, voicing opinions and posing serious questions following an excellent presentation. Audience members advocated school curricula emphasizing critical thinking, for a more forceful FCC, for more librarians in Philadelphia schools, for using the library to train young reporters and other innovative ideas.

The concept of evidentiary truth is the bedrock of academia, science and law. The big turnout for Lewis’ talk indicates that many neighbors, like me, feel that the President’s style of rhetoric disdains the concept to such an extent that he poses a unique threat to civil society and our form of democracy. It was a congregation of citizens who revere Enlightenment values. I can’t think of a better use for an American library’s community room.

The Friends of the Free Library is preparing a Fall Speakers Series. Please consider being one of our speakers. Describe your topic and why it is of interest. Ideally, programs, presentations, talks or lectures should be 60 to 90 minutes. For the Fall, we are also considering offering courses and workshops. We will provide projection equipment for PowerPoint or Internet-linked display. Go to the Contacts page at if you you’d like to submit a proposal. Also, have a look at the page describing the free events remaining in our Spring series.

The Spring Lineup (8711 Germantown Ave.):

• April 9, Tuesday, 1:30 p.m. – “Medical Marijuana” with Wanda Beilenson, a pharmacist in a Pennsylvania marijuana dispensary who will explain differences in cannabis types and prescription qualifications

• April 11, Thursday, 1:30 p.m. – “The Novels of Elena Ferrante: Secrets of Their Power,” with Karen Bojar, reveals hidden dimensions of the sensationally popular “Neapolitan Quartet.” Bojar is a former Community College of Philadelphia literature and women’s studies professor, now an executive and City Committeewoman

• April 23, Tuesday, 1:30 p.m. – “What Happened to the Lenape?” with Claude Epstein, former Stockton University professor and an expert on the impact of European development on the Delaware Valley’s native people and natural resources

• May 7, Tuesday, 1:30 p.m. – “Music and Memory” with Marja Kaisla, a concert pianist and educator who will reveal the latest findings on the remarkable power of music to inhibit the symptoms of dementia