After 26 years on Virginia Avenue, the Indianapolis Public Library Board of Trustees has approved the closing of the Fountain Square branch in May. The closure, according to Indianapolis Public Library CEO Jackie Nytes, is part of the library’s long-range plan to maximize library accessibility across Indianapolis.
The plan, which was announced in 2015, ultimately involved four major goals: enrich local desire for personal learning, strengthen neighborhoods and businesses, act as agents of innovation and maximize accessibility to the library and its services. 2020 will usher in the final year of the library’s strategic plan. This meant some changes were needed, according to Nytes.
“As [the Indianapolis Public Library] were trying to meet the demand in the outlying areas of the county, we were closing some of the smaller libraries that have a lot of overlap in the inner city,” Nytes said. “This action with Fountain Square was consistent with our desire to try to provide better access across the whole county for our patrons.”
In addition to helping with the library’s long-term strategic plan, the closure of the Fountain Square Branch will save the library $60,000 in lease payments by leaving before their current lease expires, according to Nytes.
The closure of the Fountain Square Branch does not mean the building at 1066 Virginia Ave. will sit abandoned, however. When the library moves out, local nonprofit Indy Reads will be moving in.
Indy Reads is an organization dedicated to building literacy in Marion County. According to Indy Reads Chief Development Officer Chrissy Vasquez, most people only know Indy Reads because of its retail store on Massachusetts Ave., but in reality the local nonprofit provides much more for the community from adult education programs focused on literacy to workforce development programming.
According to Vasquez, one in six adults in Indiana read below a fifth-grade level. Because of this, Indy Reads’ mission has always focused on 100% literacy for all. The adult literacy classes offered by Indy Reads, Vasquez said, are completely free and individualized to fit the specific needs of any particular student. In their last academic year, Indy Reads was able to serve 235 students, and 72% of those students demonstrated at least one grade level gain in their reading skills.
Indy Reads hopes to continue these services when they move from their current location at 911 Massachusetts Ave. into the library’s current Fountain Square location. The space at Fountain Square will be used primarily for the organization’s retail store, the profits of which go toward funding Indy Reads. Indy Reads’ literacy classes will be held at Southeast Community Services, a nearby community center.
Indy Reads will still continue some of its monthly programming at its new location, such as performances and author readings, but the new space will serve as an informative location where students can take the first steps toward enrolling in classes.
Despite all the benefits of the move, Nytes said that she understands the closure of the Fountain Square branch will definitely affect some people. Indy Reads will not be providing free computer access, which was one of the most useful features of the Fountain Square library, she said. However, the Garfield Park branch is only a mile away, and already provides “excellent computer access,” Nytes said.
All in all, Nytes said, Indy Reads was the best possible successor for the spot on Virginia Avenue.
“[Indy Reads and the Indianapolis Public Library] are both in the business of making sure people can read,” Nytes said. “[The library has] so much enjoyed the opportunity to be at that location for the 20 some years that we’ve been there. We watched Fountain Square really come together as a community, and we have really valued being there for that journey. We know that Indy Reads will be a great partner for the community going forward.”