Central Library is the hub of the county's library system and home to the Learning Curve. Central Library provides supports services such as bookmobiles, school activities and advanced technology to the system's 23 branches and the entire Indianapolis community.
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The Cret Building, located on St. Clair Street and extending from Meridian to Pennsylvania Streets, was built on land donated by James Whitcomb Riley. The construction was completed in October, 1917.
Designed by Paul Cret and built in the Greek Doric style, it was considered architecturally to be one of the most outstanding library structures in the United States. The exterior is fittingly of Indiana limestone built on a base of Vermont marble, with carved stone cornices adding to its beauty. A broad expanse of steps leads up to the entrance, which is framed with impressive Greek columns.
The Cret Building interior materials include Indiana limestone, walnut and white oak. The ceiling of the Simon Reading Room was painted in Pompeian style by C. C. Zantzinger, and tells the history of Indiana. There are two 30 foot bronze chandeliers decorated to match the ceiling of this room.
The gates at the Cret’s Building’s main entrance on St. Clair Street were given by Indianapolis school children. The bronze gates were purchased with pennies by the children. The bronze tables on each of the massive wrought iron gates contain the inscription:
The gates are the gift of the children of Indianapolis in loving remembrance of their friend James Whitcomb Riley
In the 1990s the Library Board adopted a comprehensive strategic plan to meet the needs of the Indianapolis community well into the 21st Century which included the expansion of Central Library.