History & Culture

History of Indianapolis Public Library Branches

What is Digital Indy?

For those new to Digital Indy, we work with organizations across the city/county to digitize their materials showcasing the cultural heritage and history of Indianapolis. These materials are then made freely accessible and searchable on our website. With over 90 collections highlighting yearbooks, neighborhoods, city services, arts, and communities, there is something for everyone!

A Multi-Year Digital Archiving Initiative

This year Digital Indy launched a multi-year digital archiving project featuring each of The Indianapolis Public Library’s Branches. In 2023 Digital Indy focused on the history of four branches: Haughville, Martindale-Brightwood, Eagle, and East 38th Street. These four branches highlight two major periods of development for The Indianapolis Public Library system: the addition of library services outside of the main library at the turn of the 20th century and the need for increased services due to population growth and city expansion after World War II.

By the end of the year Digital Indy will have digitized more than 15,000 pages relating to the history of the IndyPL Branches, all of which are being added to The Indianapolis Public Library Digital Collection. In addition, Digital Indy will present a unique history program at each of these four branches during the months of September and October.

  • Event: Everyday Artists
  • Date & Time: Saturday, March 16, 1:00pm
  • Location: West Perry Branch
  • Description: Individuals of all ages are invited to explore various art mediums and styles. Sessions will start with a brief history of the session’s art medium, followed by a short demonstration. All experience levels welcome! This month’s art medium is acrylic paints.
  • Register Here

The First Four Stories

Portrait of Eliza Gordon Browning, Head Librarian from 1892-1917.
Portrait of Eliza Gordon Browning, Head Librarian from 1892-1917.

Indianapolis Public Library branches have existed since 1896 when Library Director, Eliza Gordon Browning, recognized and prioritized the need for access to the public library beyond a single central location. Two of the oldest branches still operating in our library system are Haughville, which was one of the first four branches that opened in 1896, and Martindale-Brightwood, which opened in 1901 as the sixth branch. Of the original four branches opened in 1896, Haughville is the only one remaining, making it the oldest in the system.

Since opening in 1873, IndyPL operated as part of IPS. As demographics changed drastically in Indianapolis during the 1940s and 1950s, many community groups and leaders began petitioning and demanding library services be provided within their growing neighborhoods, which prompted The Library to expand its service area beyond the IPS district lines. The first of these resulting branches was Emerson, now East 38th Street, which opened in 1957 as the only library branch to open that decade. Eagle opened in a small shop in the Safeway Shopping Center (later renamed Eagledale Plaza) in 1960 and officially kicked off the decade that added the most Library branches to the system.

Looking for More?

This year marks the Indianapolis Public Library’s 150th Year of Service. Celebrate by taking a closer look at The Library’s long history. We encourage everyone to dig deeper and recommend the following resources for anyone interested in IndyPL history.

Made possible by Friends of the Library through gifts to The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation.