We’re delighted to share this profile on the Langston Hughes Library and Cultural Center and the wonderful arts-focused programming they do in Queens, NY as part of our National Poetry Month suite for April 2013!  Enjoy. ~Erinn

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The Langston Hughes Library and Cultural Center

by Rebecca Rubenstein

The Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center is part of the Queens Library System. In February of this year, the library was dedicated as a literary landmark by United for Libraries.  I talked with the library’s director, Andrew Jackson, about its unique history and the extensive arts and cultural programs they offer.

The library started in 1969, independent of the Queens Library System.  It was run by the Library Action Committee of Corona-East Elmhurst as a federally funded project under the Library Services and Construction Act to explore the idea of public libraries being organized and operated by their local communities. Even when the library became a Queens Library branch in 1987, the Library Action Committee continued to be involved with the Cultural Arts and Homework Assistance programs at the library. Jackson told me that from the start, the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center was “placed in the heart of the community” and “run by the local community.” Further, he stated it was conceived of as a way to “educate on the Black Experience” and to get the community reading more.  This idea, of the special “community library” has now gone on to be adopted by many libraries across the country, but it had its roots at Langston Hughes.

The library’s Black Heritage collection is the largest in New York City. One of the highlights of the collection is the circulating Theses and Dissertation Collection, which focuses on critiques of the works of African American writers, especially the works of Langston Hughes. There are over 1,000 volumes within this collection. The Adele Cohen Music Collection features the work of Langston Hughes set to music. The Langston Hughes Art Collection includes African textiles, sculptures and paintings, which are on display throughout the library. During the year, exhibitions at the Langston Hughes Gallery (on the second floor of the library) feature the works of various artists hailing from the local community and beyond. The March exhibition, in celebration of Women’s History Month, was entitled, “The Divine Black Feminine: Elizabeth Catlett on Our Minds.”

The library offers numerous public programs ranging from film festivals to jazz concerts, in addition to the creative writing workshops and poetry readings you might expect. It hosts the annual Langston Hughes Celebration, which features a full day of events with talks, music, film and poetry readings. They also host annual Kwanzaa celebrations and the East Elmhurst-Corona Family Day.

Their upcoming events include “Word Canvas: National Poetry Month Celebration” which will feature the poets Cheryl Boyce Taylor, DuEwa Frazier and Darryl Alladice. In addition, the library will host the event “George Edward Tait Presents 30th Anniversary of Poetcetera.” George Edward Tait is the Poet Laureate of Harlem.

I very much enjoyed visiting this vibrant library and speaking with its dedicated director. The Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center provides invaluable resources to the Queens communities it serves and beyond.

 

rebecca_rubensteinRebecca Rubenstein is an artist who earned her MFA from from Pratt Institute before enrolling as an MSLIS student at the Palmer School of Library and Information Science, Long Island University. She recently completed an internship with the Librarian for Fine Art at New York University’s Bobst Library. One of her projects there was to build a Lib Guide which includes online and print professional development resources for visual artists. She currently works in the eLibrary of an educational software company. Visit her website at www.rebeccaprojects.com.

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