Louisville Free Public Library, Western Colored Branch
Front of the library
|Location||604 S. 10th St., Louisville, Kentucky|
|Area||less than one acre|
|Architect||McDonald & Dodd; Lortz & Frey Planing Mill Co.|
|Architectural style||Beaux Arts|
|NRHP reference No.||75000771|
|Added to NRHP||December 6, 1975|
The Louisville Free Public Library's Western Branch or Western Library is a public library in Louisville, Kentucky. It is a Carnegie library and is the first public library built for African Americans staffed entirely by African Americans.[note 1] Previously known as Louisville Free Public Library, Western Colored Branch, and registered as a historic site in that name, it is a branch of the Louisville Free Public Library system. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Western Colored Branch library first opened in September 1905 and was originally located at 1125 West Chestnut Street. At the time it was common for black libraries to be housed in rented or converted private facilities; when the Western Colored Branch first opened it was operated in three rented rooms in a private home.
Albert Ernest Meyzeek, principal of Central High School at the time, was concerned about the lack of adequate reading and reference materials at the school. He challenged the 1902 legislation that created the Louisville Free Public Library system, on the basis that it did not adequately serve African Americans, and persuaded the city council to open a branch to fill this need. Meyzeek later pushed for a second black library, the Eastern Colored Branch (which opened in 1914).
In 1908, industrialist Andrew Carnegie donated funds to build a new library building. As a result, the Western Colored Branch became the first public library for African Americans in the American South that was housed in a Carnegie-funded facility. The new library building was designed by McDonald & Dodd.
The building is 75 by 45 feet (23 m × 14 m) in plan, and is built of brick with stone trim.
The library was well received by the community. It marked a new level of civic engagement by "the emerging, turn-of-the-century, southern black middle class" which was determined to "build positive community infrastuctures for purposes of racial uplift."
Early success (1910s-1930s)
Several prominent African-American librarians worked in the Western Branch and assisted in education and outreach programs for the local black community. Of particular note are Reverend Thomas Fountain Blue, who served as the administrative head of the Western and Eastern Colored Branches as well as Rachel Davis Harris, who served as the children's library specialist and chief assistant. Blue and Harris were influential in providing services to Louisville's African American community during the Jim Crow era. In 1917, about 12,000 people attended 498 meetings at both branches. Blue created a community outreach strategy, he said the library was much more than a place to store books. “With its reading and study rooms, its lecture and classrooms, it forms a center from which radiate many influences for general betterment. The people feel that the library belongs to them, and that it may be used for anything that makes for their welfare.” 
The two branches (Western and Eastern) became community social centers and regional models for other libraries like it. The library included a Children's Department, which developed story time, debates, and special events. The library also held an annual spelling bee with Cup winners and cash rewards sponsored by Joseph S. Cotter, a local black educator. The prominent Douglass Debate Club for high school boys, which argued civil rights topics, studied and cooperated with this branch.
The library also helped set up forty classroom collections at eleven African American city and county schools. By 1935 this had expanded to eighty classroom collections as well as library services administered at two junior high schools and the development of 15 deposit stations. From 1912 to 1931, Blue also organized and held an apprenticeship librarian class, which was the "only opportunity for formal training for prospective black librarians" until the Hampton Library School was opened in 1925 in Virginia.
- Carnegie Branch Library (Meridian, Mississippi), which has been asserted to be the only Carnegie library ever built for African Americans in the country. Although the assertion is contradicted by the Louisville Free Public Library, Western Colored Branch, there are not many known examples.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
- "Western Library". Louisville Free Public Library. Retrieved June 29, 2018.
- Douglas L. Stern (April 11, 1975). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Louisville Free Public Library, Western Colored Branch / Louisville Free Public Library, Western Branch". National Park Service. Retrieved June 29, 2018. With accompanying photo from 1975
- Fultz, Michael (Summer 2006). "Black Public Libraries in the South in the Era of De Jure Segregation". Libraries & the Cultural Record. 41 (3): 340. JSTOR 25549344.
- "The Record of Albert Ernest Meyzeek" (1947). Negro History Bulletin, 10(8)p.186-187
- "A Separate Flame". Retrieved 2011-12-12.
- "Louisville Western Branch Library (1905- ) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed". www.blackpast.org. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
- Fultz, Michael (Summer 2006). "Black Public Libraries in the South in the Era of De Jure Segregation". Libraries & the Cultural Record. 41 (3): 340–341. JSTOR 25549344.
- Fultz, Michael (Summer 2006). "Black Public Libraries in the South in the Era of De Jure Segregation". Libraries & the Cultural Record. 41 (3): 341. JSTOR 25549344.
- Chipman, Melissa (April 21, 2016). "Prince made secret donation to support Louisville's historic Western Branch Library in 2001". Insider Louisville. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
- Robert J. Cangelosi, Jr. (September 19, 1988). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Merrehope Historic District" (PDF). National Park Service. Cite journal requires