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1980 to the Present Day

The newly-renovated Stanford L. Warren branch reopened in 1985 with a week-long open-house celebration. The library had a lot to celebrate. Thanks to the dedication of the Friends of the Stanford L. Warren Library and others, the library had survived into its fifth decade.

The library also continued to provide valuable programming for adults. The branch hosted the Roadmap to Great Literature for New Writers program, founded by the library system’s writer-in-residence, Judy Hogan. The program was a workshop where participants read classic works of literature and wrote assignments incorporating what they had learned about writing from reading those works. It was hugely successful and was chosen by the North Carolina Humanities Council as an entry in a nationwide contest for humanities programs. Other adult programs included the Griot’s Corner, a series of performances by storytellers and other spoken-word artists (“griot” is an African word for a tribal storyteller).

In the late 1980s controversy broke out surrounding the name of the library’s prized Negro Collection. Many community members began to express that they found the word "Negro" offensive. Some suggested that it be replaced with the term "African-American," but others objected that it was inappropriate, since they were Americans and felt no real connection to Africa. Others suggested calling it the "Black Collection," but the term "black" was rejected by some as inaccurate and misleading. It was also suggested that the collection be named after Hattie B. Wooten, the Stanford L. Warren Library’s first librarian. Ultimately, in 1990, it was officially named the Selena Warren Wheeler Collection, after the library’s second librarian, who had worked diligently to develop the collection. That was an important year for the Warren branch—1990 marked the 50th anniversary of the library’s occupation of its current building. The anniversary was celebrated with storytelling, a wreath-laying ceremony and an exhibit on the library’s history, among other events.

The library building was renovated again in a two-year, two million-dollar process that began in 2004 and ended with a grand reopening on September 7, 2006. The library reopened with numerous improvements to make the building more usable and welcoming. It contained additional public meeting and study rooms. The main entrance was moved from Fayetteville Street to a side street. The Selena Warren Wheeler Collection was moved into a public area to make it more readily accessible to patrons. Also included outside the remodeled building was a plaque honoring Durham blues musician Blind Boy Fuller, a recent inductee into the Blues Hall of Fame.

The community enthusiastically embraced the revamped library. The reopening followed closely on the heels of the 2003 observance of the 90th anniversary of public library service to blacks in Durham.

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