Flint, MI—The Flint Public Library (FPL) is changing its name in honor of the library’s former director, Gloria Coles, on Saturday, June 3, 2023.

The library is inviting the public to attend its name change ceremony from the Flint Public Library to the Gloria Coles Flint Public Library at 2 p.m that afternoon.

The ceremony will be followed by a meet and greet with Coles, according to a June 1 press release.

Coles served as FPL’s director from 1984 to 2004 and became the first African American to lead the library.

“During her time as Director, Gloria Coles forged strong connections between the library and the Flint community,” Kay Schwartz, FPL’s current executive director, said in a statement. “The ultimate result of Ms. Coles’ leadership was the remarkable public support we had for this beautifully renovated building.”

Back in the 1990s, Coles helped guide the library through its transition from a department of the Flint school district to a district library, Schwartz previously told Flint Beat. The executive director added that in the early 2000s, Coles’ efforts to secure millages were key to stabilizing the library’s public funding.

The building’s name change came from a grassroots effort led by community members known as the Gloria Coles Initiative, and Reta Stanley, president of FPL’s Board of Trustees, commended the group for bringing the renaming forward to the Board.

“I’m extremely excited,” Stanley told Flint Beat of the upcoming ceremony. “The library is really a institution that impacts our entire community. It’s noted for lifelong learning with many resources to gain information and it is the public who supports the library. I believe that Gloria Coles has been a absolute sterling leader in this community and deserves that recognition.”

When FPL originally announced the pursuit of changing its name in September 2022, Coles shared her thoughts about the move.

“I am truly humbled by this proposal coming from members of the community,” Coles said. “After much thought and some soul-searching, I agreed to the renaming. The possibility that the name of an African American woman on a revered institution might be encouraging to subsequent generations of Flint youth and shine a light on the contributions of African Americans to the City was persuasive.”

Freelon Threlkeld, who is a part of the Gloria Coles Initiative, said Coles’ work during her tenure helped sustain the library to become the institution that it is now. 

“She was the one that saved the Flint Public Library to be where it is,” he said.

Nicholas is Flint Beat’s public health and education reporter. He joins the team as he graduates from Santa Clara University, Calif. Nicholas has previously reported on dementia and brain health, as...