Western Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library
The Western Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library recently celebrated its centennial. The first full-service public library in the U.S. to be run for and by African Americans, it was founded in 1905 by educator and civil rights leader Albert E. Meyzeek and Rev. Thomas F. Blue, the first African-American librarian. Their efforts set a precedent for libraries serving black communities in other cities across the country.
The Western Branch first consisted of just three rented rooms in a private home, with 1,400 books in the collection. When the library outgrew those facilities, the permanent Carnegie library was built at 10th and Chestnut, opening in 1908. The Western Branch is one of the Louisville library system’s oldest libraries and has become a city landmark. It is also the home of Louisville’s African American Archives.
Some trivia from 100 years of excellence:
- Co-founder Albert E. Meyzeek was a man of firsts: He also helped establish the first African-American branch of the YMCA.
- Library records show that the first book checked out of the Western Branch was Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington.
- The Western Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library was the first library in the country to put its own FM radio station on the air. WFPL signed on in 1950.
- Program 103
- The 21c Museum Hotel, the Jug Band Jubilee, the Western Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library, Kentucky Center Programming Director Dan Forte, and Part 2 of our report on the Lost Boys of Sudan. (#103)