History of the Calcasieu Parish Public Library System

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Lake Charles Public Library
The Lake Charles Public Library was founded in 1901, when W. S. B. McLaren, President of the North American Land and Timber Company of London, England, visited Lake Charles and -- through area Manager Austin V. Eastman -- donated the land at the corner of Pujo and Bilbo Street, provided that Andrew Carnegie would donate $10,000 for a building, and the city would appropriate not less than $1,000 annually for maintenance.

By March 1904, the Carnegie Memorial Library was open to the public, serving a population of 5,000 with a collection of 706 volumes. The library was not damaged in the Great Fire of 1910, partially due to the private water supply of the Majestic Hotel, which was then located across the street.

Hurricanes and time weathered the library, and in 1949, a bond issue was passed by the citizens of Lake Charles to build a new one. After three years of construction, the present Carnegie Memorial Library opened to the public on March 14, 1952. The Library was called the "Lake Charles Public Library."

Calcasieu Parish Public Library
In 1944, members of the first Calcasieu Parish Public Library Board of Control met in the Police Jury Office of the Calcasieu Parish Courthouse. There was to be a Demonstration Library, supervised by the Louisiana Library Commission, which would operate for one year. At the end of the trial period, residents of Calcasieu Parish would have the opportunity to vote whether they wanted a public library system to remain in the parish. Miss Sallie Farrell was appointed as the first Parish Librarian of Calcasieu Parish. Headquarters for the system would be in Lake Charles, at Kirby and Hodges Streets, with branches located in municipalities throughout the parish.

On April 4, 1973, the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury passed Ordinance #1442, effecting the consolidation of the Lake Charles Public Library and the Calcasieu Parish Public Library. On August 1, 1973, the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury authorized its president to enter into a joint services agreement with the City of Lake Charles with respect to the number of members of the library board and their means of selection. The consolidation of the two library systems was effective January 1, 1974.

On January 20, 1990, the voters of Calcasieu Parish voted to renew the library's millage, and increase the millage to 4.57. Also approved that day was a $12 million bond issue for the expansion and renovation of all thirteen branches of the library system. Total square footage increased from 51,542 to 115,586.

Bell City Library

This branch opened April 4, 1944 and was originally housed in the Bell City Elementary School with operating hours from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesdays and Fridays. Mrs. Max Johnston was the first Branch Manager. In August, 1944, the Library moved into a small office owned by Andrew Delaney, husband of the Library's Branch Manager, Hanan V. Delaney. It was housed in the office until 1990 when the Capitol Improvement Program allowed purchase of land, renovation and expansion of a new building. Work was completed and the new library opened in January of 1994.
The Calcasieu Parish Public Library merged the Bell City and Hayes branches on December 28. The merger of the two branches, which are 1.2 miles apart, a two-minute trip by car, enables more enhanced service to the area. The last day of operation for the Bell City branch was December 23, 2009.

Carnegie Memorial Library

Originally the Lake Charles Public Library, the Carnegie Memorial Library was founded in 1901, when W.S.B. McLaren, President of the North American Land and Timber Company of London, England, visited Lake Charles and through area Manager Austin V. Eastman, donated the present library site provided that Andrew Carnegie would donate $10,000 for a building, and the city would appropriate not less than $1000 annually for maintenance.
By March 1904, the library was open to the public, serving a population of 5,000 with a collection of 706 volumes, on the same land at the corner of Pujo and Bilbo Streets. Miss Verona Keener was the first librarian. On opening day, Miss Keener took 30 library card applications before noon. Luckily the library was not damaged by the great fire of 1910. In 1949 a bond issue was passed to build a new library building. It was completed and opened on March 14, 1952.
Built with tax money, the library was now called the "Lake Charles Public Library." During the 1950's, the library expanded its offerings with the creation of an audio/visual department. Late in the decade, the library experimented with lending art prints. The 1960's saw the library add a microfilm collection and lending sculpture replicas. In 1974, The City Council and the Police Jury voted to consolidate with the Calcasieu Parish Public Library System.
Miss Mary Louise Giraud, former Head Librarian of the Lake Charles Public Library was named Parish Librarian. With the opening of the Central Library, the library was rechristened, "Carnegie Memorial." The Library was renovated during 1993 and reopened to the public in February 1994 as part of the Capital Improvement Program. The building is 4180 square feet and it houses the Carnegie Memorial Library, the Southwest Louisiana Genealogical & Historical Library plus the Collection and Computing Services Department of the Calcasieu Parish Public Library.

Central Library

The Central Library, or "Headquarters" as it was then known, opened April 4, 1944, the first library in the parish system. It was located at the corner of Kirby and Hodges Streets in a former store building. Miss Ruby Tanner was the first Branch Manager. In March, 1947, the Library moved into a building owned by Oscar Colletta at 1830 Broad Street. But by 1949, the Library had outgrown its facility again. It moved again and again until it found its home in 1954 to a location on South Ryan Street.
In 1965, the need for more space was needed again. It moved to a space at the corner of Prien Lake Road and Center Street. Circulation jumped when the library moved to this location; the city's population had also begun to move south. The Police Jury then purchased a 3.2 acre lot at the corner of Ernest and West Claude Streets in 1977.
Ground was broken and the library was completed in December, 1984. Thanks to the Capital Improvement Program, plans were once again made for a new and larger Library. The new building opened on August 6, 1995. The Central Library's building is 41,000 square feet, the collection size is about 150,000+ and the building also houses the Administrative offices of the Calcasieu Parish Public Library.

DeQuincy Library

The DeQuincy Libary officially opened on April 6, 1944, the library was first housed in the Birch building. Mrs. Louis Cruikshank was the first Branch Manager. With the growing population and the demand for a larger library collection, the need for a new, larger building was apparent. In 1957, the library moved to a new building at 102 W. Harrison Street.
Circulation continued to grow and by 1970, it reached 2,000 books per month. Thanks to the passage of the Capital Improvement Bond Issue in 1989, the library was completely renovated. Work was completed and the library reopened in May, 1993. The building is approximately 3331 square feet with a collection size of 23,000+.

Epps Memorial Library

The Epps Memorial Library originally named the Carver Branch Library (named for scientist George Washington Carver) was opened in May, 1945 in the Powell Building at 301 Franklin Street in Lake Charles. Over 100 people registered for library cards that first evening of operation.
Hours were Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Willie Mae Goosby was the first Branch Manager. After moving the library to several locations, it had outgrown its quarters.During the search for larger quarters, the bookmobile from Caddo Parish was made available for use to its patrons.
Land was located at 1324 N. Simmons Street, and in February, 1976, the library was renamed Epps Memorial Library, dedicated in memory of Rochelle Rigmaiden Epps, a longtime member of Lake Charles Public Library Board and Consolidated Calcasieu Parish Public Library System Board.
After time and Hurricane Juan took their tolls, the building was renovated and work was completed and reopened in October, 1993. Funds from the City of Lake Charles and Calcasieu Parish funded the construction of the new Epps Memorial Library Branch building. In April of 2008, the new building opened to the public. On May 12, 2008, a dedication ceremony was conducted at the new building site.
This new building has a large community meeting room, a small conference room, and additional public access computers. The building is approximately 7020 square feet with a collection size of 16,000+.

Fontenot Memorial Library

The Fontenot Memorial Library began with the efforts of a dedicated group: the Vinton Literary Club. In 1919, Mrs. W.E. (Lina) Lundy and a group of women founded the Vinton Library Club---the first free public library in Vinton. The original collection contained 35 volumes, and was housed in the back of Miss M. Carter's store. Later it was moved to a larger room once occupied by Delure Studio.
When the parish library system came into being, the Vinton Library Club sold their collection and the Vinton Branch of the Calcasieu Parish Library System opened for service April 18, 1944. It was later remodeled and enlarged, but it continued to grow and more space was quickly needed. In 1961, the City of Vinton gave a lot in the park area on Highway 90 at Horridge Street to the library system.
The new library was named in honor of the late Jimmy Lee Fontenot of Vinton. A strong library supporter, Fontenot served on the Police Jury from June, 1948 until his death in May, 1962. More space was needed again, but was later provided by the 1990 Capital Improvement Program. The building is approximately 2735 square feet with a collection size of 14,800+.

Hayes Library

The Hayes Library opened April 10, 1944. It was located in Martin's Store and Mrs. Emma Martin was the first Branch Manager. Library hours were Mondays and Thursdays, 12:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. There were several locations that the Hayes Library was stationed including the Post Office where it was for four years.
The library filled a few shelves in the lobby. Both the library and the Post Office moved across the highway. The collection grew and a dividing wall had to be installed between the two with separate entrances. In 1979, the Post Office moved out and the library filled the entire building. However, bigger quarters were soon needed. The library then moved to a former tenant house at 7709 Perier Street in1986. Like many other of the library buildings throughout the parish, it needed repairs. These repairs came courtesy of the Capital Improvement Program. Work was completed and the library reopened in September, 1993.
On December 23, 2009, the Calcasieu Parish Public Library merged the Bell City and Hayes branches. The merger enabled more enhanced service to the area. The two branches were 1.2 miles apart. The Hayes Library absorbed Bell City's 8 hours  to be opened Monday through Friday, 2:00-6:00 p.m. The same staff that previously worked both locations continue to serve patrons. The Hayes branch has more CDs, Books-on-CD, DVDs and magazines as a result of the merger, and the number of computers at Hayes has doubled. Public Wifi is available at Hayes. The Hayes branch opened for service to the public on Monday, December 28, 2009. The building is approximately 950 square feet with a collection size of 7700+.

Iowa Library

The Iowa Library opened April 6, 1944 with hours on Mondays and Thursdays from 12:00 p.m.until 5:00 p.m. Mrs. V.F. Stutsman was the first Branch Manager. Over 470 books were checked out from the Iowa Branch Library during its first month of operation. July's Lake Charles American Press reported that an Iowa boy built a radio using a Fust Radio Book for Boys---which he had checked out from the library---as a guide.
The library continued to grow and was in need of more spacious quarters. In October, 1955, land was purchased on First Street for a new building, and by October, 1956, the new Iowa Branch Library was opened, the first library-owned branch in the parish.
As part of the Capital Improvement Program, it was renovated in 1993. While in the remodeling stage, the library temporarily relocated at the Lion's Club on North Kinney. The building is approximately 2920 square feet with a collection size of 20,000+.

Maplewood Library

In November 29, 1944, the Maplewood Branch opened. It originally was first housed on the ground floor of the Construction Office at Beauregard Avenue and Parish Road, but moved to a room in the Maplewood Baptist Church. Mrs. C.H. Chapman was the first librarian.
During the first evening of operation, over 180 books were checked out. In 1945, the Maplewood Star reported that during the library's first seven months of circulation, almost 100 more children had registered than adults with juvenile readers checking out over 1,000 more books than had adult readers. Growth made moving a necessity several times during this branch's history.
It went from using the Maplewood Housing Corporation and the Maplewood Shopping Center, but those facilities still weren't enough. In 1958, a new building was constructed in an ideal place, near the park and recreation center on Center Circle. The formal opening celebration was in June of 1958.
After repairs, renovations, and rebuilding sponsored by the Capital Improvement Program, the library reopened in November, 1993.The building is approximately 3331 square feet with a collection size of 15,000+.

Moss Bluff Library

The Moss Bluff Library, being the eighteenth and the last branch of the system was opened in July, 1945 in McMillan's store. Mrs. Evelyn Baxter was the first Branch Manager. The branch was opened four hours a week on Tuesdays and Fridays from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. By steadily growing, it needed a larger building.
This new building was provided by J.L. Rollings in December, 1957 which he constructed next to his grocery store on the west side of Highway 171. The library hours were increased to ten a week for Wednesdays and Saturdays from 12:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.
With more space needed, it moved into the Lakeside Bank Building then to a new building on the west side of the Moss Bluff Supermarket at the corner of Highway 378 and Bruce Circle, but soon more space was needed.
Thanks to the Capital Improvement Program, it was the fourth largest library in the parish, measuring 11,528 square feet on almost two acres of land. The library reopened its doors in September, 1993. The building is approximately 11,528 square feet with a collection size of 43,000+.

Southwest Louisiana Genealogical & Historical Library

The Southwest Genealogical & Historical Library had its beginnings in the Lake Charles Public Library during the 1960's. Mary Louise Giraud was the first librarian to acquire books and microfilmes census records, readers, and printers for those patrons interested in genealogy. By June 1972, the collection had grown to include 150 classified titles and eight periodicals.
The study of genealogy was rapidly becoming popular in the area. As a public interest project in 1973, the Lake Charles Public Library held a genealogy workshop.
The overflow crowd that attended decided to organize a genealogy group. This was the birth of the SWLA Genealogical Society.
Once a shelf in the main branch of the library, the collection moved to its own book cart, then its own room, and finally, to the Carnegie Memorial Library building. The collection size of 12,000+.

Starks Library

The Starks Library branch was opened on April 13, 1944 in the George A. Ristom's store. Mrs. Odes Poole was the first Branch Manager. It was reported that fifty books were circulated during the first hour of operation. The branch was opened Mondays and Thursdays from 12:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.
In January, 1946, due to special constraints and other considerations, the library had to move from its rent-free location to a rent- required building owned by Odes Poole. A thriving Friends of the Library chapter was established in the town and children's story hours became a well-attended weekly event. Like many other branches, the collection out-grew its space.
In June, 1985, a new building was purchased from the American Bank of Commerce that would more than double the current footage.
But that still would prove not to be enough. The Capital Improvement Program provided the Branch Library with a complete renovation, netting the building an additional 200 square feet. The branch was reopened in October, 1993. The building is approximately 1699 square feet with a collection size of 13,000+.

Sulphur Regional Library

Both R.W. Human, president of the Sulphur Lions Club and Dave Dugas, police juror, urged the crowd (gathered at the opening of the Sulphur Branch Library) to take advantage of their new facility April 4, 1944. By the end of its first month, the Library had circulated almost 3,000 books. Miss Dixie Tarver was the first Branch Manager.
The library was located in a small café on Napoleon Street downtown. In November, 1960, sporting a new flag donated by the Henry family, the new larger location opened.
The Sulphur Friends of the Library organized in 1984. Since its inception, the group has continued to maintain a perpetual book sale, and provided the library with many "extras" such as new tables, stools, and bulletin boards. By 1989, the Library Branch had outgrown its facility again.
Thanks to the Capital Improvement Program in February 1992, construction began on a new site. The new facility measures over 21, 000 square feet, houses over 90,000 books and 250 magazine titles, as well as audio visual materials. It serves as a reference resource library for all of west Calcasieu Parish.
In its lobby, patrons are greeted by a unique brick sculpture by artist Paula Collins depicting life in Calcasieu Parish. The building is approximately 21,300 square feet with a collection size of 94,000+.

Westlake Library

This branch opened on April 6, 1944. Mrs. J.A. Clanton was the first Branch Manager. The original facility was located in the north wing of the Lake Theater on Miller Avenue. It was opened Mondays,Wednesdays, and Fridays from 2:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. After its first month of operation, the library boasted a circulation of 790 books, and by the end of its second month, 1,256 books. Several years later, the library had outgrown its small facility.
It moved to several locations including City Hall. It also was housed in a brand new building on Shady Lane. A generous donation given in the memory of Rudolph E. Krause by his daughters, Mrs. William D. Blake and Mrs. Jack E. Thielen, made it possible for the parish to purchase the building.
By 1989, it had once again outgrown its facility. The Capital Improvement Program permitted the purchase of nearly three acres of land at its current location. Work was completed and reopened in December, 1993. The building is approximately 6012 square feet with a collection size of 26,000+.

Lynda Mills Carlberg (1944-1997)

Lynda M. Carlberg, Director of the Calcasieu Parish Public Library System from 1978 to 1997, left a legacy of professional excellence on every level. She was an active member and past president of the Louisiana Library Association. She was instrumental in the organization and administration of Libraries Southwest. Nationally she served on several American Library Association committees. Her tenure as director of Calcasieu Parish Public Library was marked by many achievements, the most notable being the passage of a twelve million-dollar capital improvement bond that provided for the building or remodeling of all thirteen libraries in the parish.

As a community activist, Mrs. Carlberg served on the United Way, the Literacy Council of Southwest Louisiana, and the Family and Youth Counseling Agency. She was a member of the Quota Club, the Calcasieu Arts and Humanities Advisory Panel, the Krewe of Noblesse, the Business and Professional Women’s Club, L’Heure du Livre, and St. Luke-Simpson United Methodist Church.

However, with all her achievements, her family, friends and co-workers will best remember Mrs. Carlberg for her love, her loyalty and her support. She gave her staff her very best, and she drew the very best from them. As one staff member expressed, “A miracle, Lynda Carlberg, one little lady who touched so many, dreamed so great, accomplished so much, can never be gone from our hearts, our thoughts, and our memories. Let us hope and work very hard to keep her dream and her work securely at the standard of excellence she wished to maintain.”

Locally, Mrs. Carlberg will be memorialized by the presentation to the public of a garden and sculpture, located on the north side of the Central Library. Also the Library Board of Trustees has establish an annual Certificate of Merit in her name, recognizing a Calcasieu Parish Public Library staff member for outstanding service. On the state level, the Board will create an annual Lynda Mills Carlberg plaque, recognizing service to the library profession.