Almost 13 years after Hurricane Katrina shuttered the 7th ward’s Nora Navra Public Library (1209 St. Bernard Avenue), the branch reopened in a brand-new, 7,800-square-foot facility. Two days of festivities kick off at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24.
“We’re excited to bring back library services to our 7th ward neighbors, offering the library’s entertaining and educational resources for children, teens, and adults,” stated city librarian and executive director of the New Orleans Public Library system Charles Brown in a press release.
When the Nora Navra library was built in 1954, New Orleans’ public libraries had just begun to desegregate. The Nora Navra Public Library replaced Branch Nine, a black library opened in 1946.
“Libraries tend to free the mind of bigotry and prejudice; they are supposed to be a civilizing influence on the community,” stated NAACP attorney A.P. Tureaud at the Nora Navra Public Library’s dedication on May 2, 1954. “We need more of them.”
The library’s original structure served the 7th Ward, a historically black neighborhood, until 2005, when it was inundated by floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures. The library’s original building was razed in 2017 to make way for a $3.7 million facility funded by a community development block grant, FEMA, and municipal bonds. Six libraries were damaged beyond repair following Hurricane Katrina, and the Nora Navra Public Library is the final branch to reopen.
Manning Architects designed a sunny, colorful reading area where a wall of front-facing windows admits leafy views of live oak trees. There are community meeting rooms, 28 public computer stations, free wi-fi, and more than 16,500 books, DVDs, magazines, newspapers, and CDs.
“The contemporary, open design makes the library a beacon of light in both form and function and will serve as a community anchor for residents of the 7th Ward and beyond,” stated Vince Smith, Capital Projects Administration director for the city of New Orleans, in a press release.
Grand reopening festivities kick off today at 2 p.m. City officials, including mayor LaToya Cantrell, will speak. A second line parade led by The Free Agent Brass Band follows at 2:30 p.m. Festivities continue from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25. Visit the NOPL’s web site for a complete schedule.