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Thursday, April 11, 2024

Beyond books: IndyPL branches out across neighborhoods

In recognition of National Library Day, April 6, and National Library Week, April 7-13, the Indianapolis Recorder is highlighting the Indianapolis Public Library’s community-based work.

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Indianapolis Public Library opened its new stand-alone Glendale Branch in Broad Ripple March 30, 2024.

Originally the country’s first full-service library in a major shopping mall, the Glendale Branch closed its doors at the Glendale Mall in February 2024 and broke ground on a new 24,000-square-foot facility at the site of former John Strange Elementary School.

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“I think it’s a wonderful thing that they found use for this space, and it’s so big. My son and I wanted to see the new library and see what events and services they have, since he’s growing up and he’ll be in middle school soon,” said Samantha Knox, a Broad Ripple resident.

She has brought her son to numerous library openings because they love visiting libraries.

The library has been a safe space for Knox to help her son learn new things and expand his horizons through more than just books.

Knox is hoping that the stand-alone library becomes her son’s new safe space, since it is right up the street.

Within the last three years, new branches have been popping up across different neighborhoods in the city, offering different areas new opportunities to utilize IndyPL’s services.

Keeping the community in mind

Last year, the Fort Ben Branch opened as the first library of its kind in Indiana specifically designed for people with autism.

The Martindale-Brightwood Branch was built in 2020.

Knowing that patrons’ needs go beyond the building, many of the Glendale Branch’s events, partnerships and programming focus on giving resources to those who need them.

“As a library manager, my investment in the community should be matched by my investment in my staff, as they play a major part in what makes the branch great,” said Community Branch Manager Teresa Coleman.

“When I hear patrons ask for that nice person who helped them figure out a difficult print job, patiently taught them how to perform a task on the computer or the one that helped them find a book when they couldn’t remember the title, I know our patrons are thankful for the work they do, but it’s important that staff know that I am also thankful for their friendliness, hard work and dedication.”

Services and programs

Keisha McEntire with IndyPL said the organization works hard to ensure its libraries provide books and collections that all people can see themselves reflected in.

IndyPL programming and services appeal to a wide variety of needs and interests. 

“For example, some people use their Indianapolis Public Library card to download free audiobooks on the Libby app to enjoy as they commute to work. Others use our public spaces to access the internet and to search for community resources and employment opportunities,” said McEntire.

“Libraries provide resources that might be unavailable to some members of our local community. We provide books, but we also provide free internet, public computers, computer classes in English and Spanish, career centers, cultural festivals and fun programs that offer attendees an opportunity to connect with others who have shared interests.

IndyPL programming and services extend beyond its libraries to bring even more resources to the community it serves.

On the Road to Reading:

This program is focused on improving students’ early reading skills before they start kindergarten and elementary school.

Itty Bitty bookmobiles visit child care centers and preschools around Indianapolis, delivering bags full of age-appropriate books, providing story times, themed kindergarten-readiness kits, and resources to parents and child care providers.

IndyPL visits 60 locations each month and reaches over 1,000 children.

Pathway to Literacy:

This program assists adult English language learners who are immigrant readers with six years or less of formal schooling in their home country.

The program’s participants represent 15 countries, and it is hosted at locations outside of IndyPL library branches, such as Indy Reads, the Immigrant Welcome Center and Washington Township Adult Education.

Shared System:

This is an interlibrary collaboration between IndyPL, 66 schools, two special libraries and three museums. The schools function as a brand of the library, allowing students access to IndyPL’s catalog to request books, DVDs and CDs, which are delivered by IndyPL to IPS.

“Personally, I want people to come into the library and know that no matter what language they speak and no matter what they look like they are in a safe space and there’s something here for them,” said McEntire.

“I think we are working hard toward the goal of making sure that our Libraries are safe and welcoming spaces for all members of the Indianapolis community.”

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON. 

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