From Black Culture Center to Park Place; 50 years of rich history for local library

Park Place Norfolk Library
Park Place 2
Posted at 7:04 AM, Feb 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 07:57:04-05

NORFOLK, Va. - It was 1970, post-segregation Virginia.

The Black Culture Center was founded in Norfolk as a place filled with books and art created by African Americans for African Americans.

A half-century later, what's now known as the Norfolk Public Library's Park Place Branch is turning 50 years old at its current location on 29th Street.

Works from African American authors still fill the location and are front-and-center for Black History Month.

Alison Gunther-Blackman, the Branch Manager, says her goal is for the library's diverse patrons to see themselves reflected in selections that are available, while also getting the opportunity to learn about other cultures.

It's a diversity not only in race, but age and income too. Many who stop in do so because of the free access to the Internet.

“I was in the Food Lion and I saw a young lady and I said, ‘You look familiar’ and she said, ‘Yes, I used to come to your library’. I came there and applied for this job and that’s how I got this job (at Food Lion)," Gunther-Blackman recalled. "We see a lot of that.”

The branch was Norfolk's Director of Libraries Sonal Rastogi's first that she managed more than 15 years ago.

“It was envisioned to focus on African American collections, programs, to have this gathering space," said Rastogi. "It’s become a true destination for families, businesses.”

The Park Place branch is celebrating its 50th birthday on Wednesday with a celebration that runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.