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Center for Black Literacy and Culture (CBLC)

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Center for Black Literacy and Culture (CBLC)

The Indianapolis Public Library, Ind.

Race and Social Equity | 2019

Innovation Summary

The CBLC at The Indianapolis Public Library (IndyPL) is a place for those seeking to build an awareness of black culture and heritage. The space acknowledges, celebrates and honors black writers and black history the world over. The CBLC provides a third place to home and work to gather, explore new ideas and learn about black culture.

Problem Statement

The importance and aggregate of black literature and culture is often underrepresented in American history. For nearly 40 years, IndyPL’s African American History Committee (AAHC) has created programming and initiatives for our patrons that are focused on cultural diversity, particularly the local African American community. As a result of the AAHC’s work, the need for a permanent source of opportunities to explore and celebrate the rich histories and experiences of the black community became apparent.


Few other libraries have an entire wing of the library dedicated to the celebration of the worldwide past, present and future literature and culture of a people. The CBLC design resulted from significant research and visits to other libraries to help create the appropriate tension between the history and future, as well as local and worldwide black leaders and trailblazers. The center of the CBLC contains a large walk-through drum allowing patrons to learn about black culture and hear music from around the world.


Over 100,000 people have visited the CBLC since it opened. The books, music, movies, magazines, original documents, photographs and research tools available in the CBLC provide Indianapolis and the city’s African American community a passage to black culture. Scores of school classes have visited the CBLC which provides what author Rudine Sims Bishop calls, “windows, sliding doors, and mirrors,” where readers can see other cultures, step into these other cultures, and see themselves in the history and stories.