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Indianapolis Public Library focuses on equity

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Indianapolis Public Library plans to give every Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) students library cards and build two new branches as part of its updated equity plan to increase accessibility for local residents.

Approved in February, the plan emphasizes the need for more robust and diverse collections and programming. During a press conference at the Martindale-Brightwood Branch on April 27, Jackie Nytes, CEO of Indianapolis Public Library, said this plan maximizes the library’s potential to serve Indianapolis residents.

“We wanted to really take action,” Nytes said. “[During the summer 2020 protests] we were saying to each other, ‘how many other times in our country’s history have we had a moment where we talk about change, and it never comes?’ We wanted this to be an opportunity to do something, not just create a book display.”

Last year, Indianapolis Public Library worked with IPS officials to ensure students had internet access for home learning.

“This partnership is so valuable,” Nathalie Henderson, IPS chief schools officer, said. “It was instrumental to home-learning last spring.”

Currently, six IPS schools have full access to the library system, meaning they can check books and other media from any branch. Henderson said IPS shares library events and programs with families, as well.

The plan calls for the creation of two new branches in the districts of West Perry in Perry Township and Fort Benjamin Harrison in Lawrence. The new branches will provide more technology access to residents and cultivate collections that represent the neighborhoods the libraries serve.

In West Perry, which has a large Burmese population, Nytes said there will be children’s books sharing stories of Burmese people and culture. Thirty percent of the collections’ budget will go toward African American materials, and the library will increase annual spending on Latinx and LGBTQ materials as well. The library also will offer at least 600 technology and computer training classes to help bridge the technological divide.

Throughout the year, the library will have racial equity training for its staff and will acquire the Digital Encyclopedia of Indianapolis by the end of 2021, an online resource that will benefit both students and researchers.

“It will take multiple organizations working together to build an equitable and inclusive city,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said at the press conference. “The Indianapolis Library serves as a key anchor institution for this work. Through new partnerships and initiatives, digital tools, programming, and new locations, this plan positions. The library as an instrumental community asset in providing access to several important resources for Indy residents.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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