by Elsa F. Kramer
According to Lawrence J. Downey’s history of the Indianapolis Public Library (A Live Thing in the Whole Town), Midtown’s first library was the Illinois branch, opened inside a drugstore at 30th & Illinois streets following a request by citizen petition in 1899. A small branch primarily for children opened in 1908 in the basement of Indianapolis Public School 60, at 33rd and Pennsylvania streets, and then moved into commercial spaces at 3355 and 3209 N. Illinois St. It moved again, in 1929, into the Rauh home, at 3024 N. Meridian St. The residence was razed in 1973, and the InfoZone branch opened in 2000 inside The Children’s Museum, built at the same location.
The Broadway branch opened in 1924 in a residence at 615 E. 42nd St. The location was supposed to be temporary, but it wasn’t until 1958 that a larger building was constructed at 4186 Broadway St. When that facility was also outgrown, the library moved in 2000 to its current location at 4180 N. College, and became the College Avenue branch.
The Broad Ripple branch opened in 1930 in a storefront at 910–912 Broad Ripple Ave. It moved in 1938 to the first floor of the Masonic Lodge Building at 6235 Bellefontaine [Guilford] Ave. (now home to Brick House piano bar). To serve the growing population in the area, a new branch was opened adjacent to IPS School 80, in 1949. A larger library constructed at Broad Ripple Park, 1550 Broad Ripple Ave., opened in 1986 (now used as an Indy Parks family center). The library moved in 2000 to even larger quarters inside the Glendale Mall, 6101 N. Keystone Ave., and became the Glendale branch.
A COMMUNITY PLACE
Jean Preer, a historian who retired from Indiana University in 2012 as professor emerita of library and information science, was familiar with the public library system in Indianapolis even before she moved here. She had done research on the American Library Association’s American Heritage Project, which sponsored Great Books discussion groups in public libraries in the 1950s to explore the meaning of the American tradition.
“I was interested in the role of the library as a place for conversation about civic issues,” Jean says. “Indianapolis was one of two cities that conducted a pilot discussion program for teens and recent high school graduates called ‘It’s Our America.’ The program used films as well as books for discussion and was notable for being interracial.” After moving here, Jean says she “became interested in how Marian McFadden, the library director then, was able to do such innovative things, some of which may have been controversial,” such as discussions on race relations, communism, or the United Nations.
According to a report from Harold J. Sander, McFadden’s successor, the teen groups met at the Holladay Memorial Library for Young People, a library branch inside a Meridian-Kessler residence at 5549 N. College Ave. Because most of the teens came from Indy’s northside neighborhoods, the groups continued to meet at the Broad Ripple or Broadway branches after the Holladay location closed in 1958.
Today, teens and young adults are regular visitors in all of the library’s 23 locations, borrowing items, attending programs, meeting or studying with friends, and taking advantage of the digital services and materials available. indypl.org
A version of this article appeared in the February/March 2015 issue of the magazine.