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Introducing the REACH Center: A New Community Initiative from the New Orleans Public Library

The Library is gearing up to open a new multi-use community center in the 7th Ward, a historically Black neighborhood, as an extension of their current African American Resource Collection (AARC).

The REACH Center is a new initiative from the Library that will feature a community event and resource center, free coworking space, and public art gallery, located inside building C of the Corpus Christi Epiphany Church Community Center at 2022 St. Bernard Avenue. Guided by a strong focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion, the REACH Center aims to be a thriving community center that empowers individuals and businesses to reach their full potential. 

Shukrani Gray –– the Library’s African American Resource Collection and Equity & Inclusion Librarian –– is leading the project.

The AARC’s catalog will stay in its current home at Main Library, but the collection falls under the REACH Center umbrella. 

The collection was introduced in 1997 as part of Main Library’s African American Resource Center, which offered a variety of services aimed at addressing the informational, educational, and cultural needs of New Orleans’ Black communities.

For Gray, the project is a return to the original vision of the African American Resource Center, which was downsized to a collection in 2017. 


“Our big-picture vision is to offer resources and engagement in a space that is built for the local community, with their needs in mind,” Shukrani said. “Residents and businesses in this neighborhood have repeatedly voiced their desire for a free place to gather, learn, and grow together, and we’re so excited to start filling that need.” 

As for the name, Shukrani said it represents their mission to step outside the Library’s walls to support the economic, cultural, and social needs of the neighborhood. 

“The REACH Center is our way of giving our services back to the community,” Gray said.  “We’re reaching out from the Library and into the community.” 

The center’s location is significant, too, Shukrani said. 

“This is a historically Black neighborhood, as is the Corpus Christi Church where the community center building is located,” she said. “The Library is not affiliated with the Church or any religious organizations, but Corpus Christi has been a very important part of this neighborhood for generations. Having the REACH Center here continues that legacy, and people are seeing that, based on the feedback we’ve gotten.” 

The Library and REACH Center anticipate celebrating a grand opening in early 2024, with popup events and limited hours available to the public in the meantime. 

Upcoming REACH Center Events:

Each REACH Center Popup will also have informational resources, Library books available for check out, giveaways, and the chance to win a $25 gift card, courtesy of Capital One Bank and the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library. 

During its soft opening period, the REACH Center will operate with limited hours and capacity. Services will focus on supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs through offering free Wi-Fi equipped coworking spaces, business, financial and health literacy workshops, as well as networking opportunities.

The REACH Center is actively seeking new community partners. If you or your organization is BIPOC-focused and specializes in financial literacy for businesses and entrepreneurs, dance classes for all ages, African drum classes, or health & wellness, please email or call 504-596-2596 

“Economic and workforce development are a big part of the overarching goals we have at the REACH Center,” Shukrani said. “We’re really dedicated to bringing financial opportunities into the community, whether that means paying partners organizations to lead programs in our space, hosting financial literacy or entrepreneurial-based workshops here, or providing a free place for small business-owners to get some work done.” 

For up-to-date information about current REACH Center services and events, please call 504-596-2597 or email

Emily Painton, City Librarian & Executive Director, said the REACH project signifies the Library’s commitment to serving unique needs in creative ways.  

“We’re thrilled to be expanding the African American Resource Collection into a full-fledged center again,” Painton said. “Reimagining spaces to create open doors is a key part of our 10-year strategic plan and the REACH Center’s creation directly aligns with these goals. 

A grand opening date has not been finalized. Follow the REACH Center or subscribe to their newsletter to stay informed.