September 3, 2020

Black Cultural Center’s library receives grant to expand community resources

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. —The library at Purdue’s Black Cultural Center has been recognized by Indiana Humanities with a grant to add more resources.

The Advancing Racial Equity Collection Development grant allows for the purchase of new materials related to issues of race, diversity and inclusion. The new materials will support the center’s ongoing educational efforts, including coordinating public workshops and assisting student research, while helping meet an increased public demand for guidance in areas of racial justice.

Ula Gaha, BCC librarian, said she’s been surprised by the number of people who have contacted the center for help building reading lists, including staff at the West Lafayette Public Library.

“We are seeing so many book groups pop up, not only on campus but in the greater Lafayette community,” she said.

bbcc-library The award allows the Black Cultural Center Library to purchase a variety of print and electronic resources, increasing accessibility to both students and the community. The library is open to the public during designated hours. (Purdue University photo/Rebecca McElhoe)

“I feel very strongly that books are a great place to start, but members of these groups need to take responsibility for discussing aspects of the material that people will find uncomfortable” said Gaha, who hopes the expanded collection will lead to discourse on systemic racism and racial injustice in ways that will result in concrete, positive actions toward racial equity. "This grant also allows me to order digital copies of existing print books as e-books so more people have access to these materials, which is so critical – especially during the pandemic.”

Purchasing plans include a variety of print and electronic materials, including film and audio. One focus will be on the already impressive collection of children’s books. Gaha said expanding juvenile literature helps both children who visit the library and future educators studying at Purdue.

“Students often have to look at and write about children’s books, so I think that expanding our collection of children’s literature is only going to help create educators with a more diversely trained background,” she said.

The BCC, a physical showcase of Black culture through African-inspired architecture and art, is open to the public during designated hours. Library cards are available to Indiana residents and Purdue affiliates. The BCC Library currently holds over 7,000 items relevant to the Black experience, not including subscriptions and online resources.

The Advancing Racial Equity Collection Development award was created in response to surging activist efforts following the killing of George Floyd. This program has made possible through a grant from Indiana Humanities with funds from Lilly Endowment Inc.

According to Indiana Humanities’ website, the grant is meant to “help Hoosiers think, read and talk about racial injustice and systemic racism and to support libraries as key public humanities organizations in this work.” The state nonprofit created a list of approved materials with the advice of librarians and humanities scholars and under the review of the Indianapolis Public Library’s Center for Black Literature & Culture.

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Writer: Christy McCarter

Media contact: Matthew Oates, 765-586-7496 (cell), oatesw@purdue.edu, @mo_oates 

Source: Ula Gaha, ugaha@purdue.edu  

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