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Louisville Western Library branch hosts annual community block party

 Children are gathered in a group. One little girl smiles at the camera. Others can be seen with face paint of bats and cats.
Louisville Free Public Library
The Block Party at Western Library continues the long held tradition of the branch being more than a place to check out books.

The Louisville Free Public Library’s Western branch’s annual block party convenes resources, vendors and entertainment for the community.

Since its inception, Western Library has always served as more than a place to check out books.

“This was the community center,” said branch manager Natalie Woods. “We didn't have those kinds of things like that back then; this is where people came to read and to learn and to thrive.”

It was the nation’s first library created for and run by Black people. It was founded by Rev. Thomas Fountain Blue, the first Black person to lead a public library. The community voiced a need for a place to come together.

“We're still like a community center in a lot of ways where people come to us to get the help that they need to do different things,” Woods said.

Part of the block party is an award ceremony for the Cotter Cup, named after Joseph Cotter, who used to hold a storytelling contest at Western Library.

“I brought it back the last couple of years as a poetry writing contest in his honor,” Woods said.

After the award ceremony, the block party gets into full swing. There will be a community art project and story time. Representatives from the Louisville Story Program will be there with authors from the recently released book, “If You Write Me a Letter, Send It Here: Voices of Russell In a Time of Change” for a panel discussion.

While the vendors, resources and other community-focused activities are typical at the block party, this year Woods wanted to create a space dedicated for performance.

The Fund for the Arts helped out with its Arts in the Neighborhoods initiative.

“At the root of our work is encouraging and empowering every single person to see themselves as an artist and to understand and to see viscerally and to create in the places that they live and work and go to school,” said Kate Gipson, who is on the community investment team at Fund for the Arts.

Through the partnership, the block party will have around a dozen performance groups from the community, including the Louisville Drumline Academy, Redline Performing Arts and Destined Dance.

“When you see artists that look like you and are related to your neighbor, or are your neighbor…and they're on stage in your neighborhood, not only is that obviously powerful, but it has the sort of reciprocal benefit of telling you that you also are an artist you are so are a part of this community,” Gipson said.

Ensuring that the community feels represented at the block party goes back to the Western Branch’s original mission and how Woods is trying to continue that legacy.

With events like the block party showing people all the library has to offer, Woods hopes to have people leave with a new information resource.

“Everything that we do is to try to help and encourage reading and learning in some capacity,” Woods said. “And making sure that people know that we're there we'll talk about the different services that we offer people who may need Computer Help resume help any of those kinds of things all that information is out there.”

The Western Library Block Party is Saturday, June 10 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Support for this story was provided in part by theJewish Heritage Fund.

News Youth Reporting
Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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