The response has been positive to the Central Library’s newest space, the Center for Black Literature & Culture, which opened in late October in the historic Cret Building’s R.B. Annis West Reading Room.

“The reaction was tremendous, said Nichelle M. Hayes, Special Collections Librarian and manager of the center, noting that 4,000 people checked the facility out on opening day.

“Our community is thirsty for knowledge about Black Experience and Culture,” she said. “It was an amazing feeling to know all the hard work of an amazing team of people was rewarded with so many people coming to see the space.”

Historic scenes from Indy line the walls.

The Center for Black Literature & Culture opened with a collection of about 10,000 volumes of books, audiobooks, ebooks, DVDs and music CDs – but has space for that number to grow to 40,000.

The facility, a partnership with the Indianapolis Public Library’s African-American History Committee, will play host to special exhibits, author talks and community forums. Hayes said she is excited about programming to be offered in the center, such as the Slammin’ Rhymes Challenge XII which in November featured Marion County students in grades 7-12. Cartoonist Robb Armstrong was the keynote speaker for the event.

Large portrait photos of significant African Americans keep an eye on the room’s activities. They include (left) U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, Etheridge Knight and Mari Evans, and (right) U.S. Rep. Julia Carson and Oscar Robertson.

The room is also dominated by larger-than-life images of African American leaders who have impacted the local community and also the world. Icons such as poet Mari Evans, musicians Wes Montgomery and Kenneth “Baby Face” Edmonds, journalist Amos Brown, actress Vivica A. Fox and basketball star Oscar Robertson are among those featured in the window displays.

The center of the 3,800-square-foot room is highlighted by the Epicenter, which will showcase the newest materials and present “first stories and impressions” of the center.

The collection housed in the Center for Black Literature & Culture is organized by subject for easy browsing, with subjects such as “African Diaspora,” “Cultural and Contemporary Literature,” “Religion & Spirituality,” “Slavery & Emancipation,” “Customs/Folkore,” and “Genealogy.”

“The Center for Black Literature & Culture is a ‘third place’ for people to come, gather, study, reflect and be inspired,” Hayes said. “This is a place with both proverbial mirrors and windows,” she added – “mirrors for people who are part of the Black Diaspora to see themselves reflected in a myriad of powerful and positive ways, and windows for people who are not part of the Black diaspora to learn about the rich heritage and culture around the world.”

And More News …

The Indianapolis Public Library has been named a “Top Innovator” in 2017 by the Urban Libraries Council for its online registration tool that eliminates the face-to-face requirement to obtain a library account. The Indianapolis Public Library is one of 20 urban libraries nationwide to be recognized for innovation and transformation in the communities they serve.

The library’s online registration was conceived from the need to adapt to changing library user patterns. In 2016, 11.5 million patrons visited the library online, compared to 3.8 million who walked through library doors. The requirement to prove Marion County residency to obtain a free library card – previously accomplished only by in-person library visits – has been abandoned with the new online system that uses an electronic residency validation tool that allows individuals to use their new library account number immediately. The electronic “card” comes with the same three-year term and borrowing privileges as a traditional card.

“With online registration we make it easy for patrons to receive unrestricted access to services,” said Library CEO Jackie Nytes. “They can use it electronically or take it with them to check out materials at their neighborhood library. It’s all about increasing access.”

In the system’s first months of operation, online library account registration surpassed in-person registration at all but seven of the system’s 24 locations.

Online registration addresses a key strategic Library goal of providing barrier-free access to information and resources that supports individuals in their lifelong learning journeys.

To access the library’s online registration page, go to and click on the “Getting a Library Card” link from the homepage.

Four authors with Indiana ties have been honored as recipients of the 2017 Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award, a program of The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation that celebrates those who have influenced the literary landscape of Indiana and the nation.

They are Kekla Magoon of Fort Wayne, Thortown native Lori Rader-Day, Indianapolis native John David Anderson and Francesca Zappia of Indianapolis.

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