"The trial period of the Library will be a success, and we will find a way to finance it at the end of the time. The Library is here to stay!"
The Beauregard Parish Public Library held its 50th Anniversary Celebration on December 11, 1997, exactly 50 years to the day after the original grand opening of the Library when these words were spoken by Mr. Lee Nichols, Secretary Treasurer of the Police Jury and one of the first Board Members. Although the night was windy and cold, 193 people including local government officials and out-of-town visitors joined Administrative Librarian, Lilly F. Smith, as she lit the 50th anniversary candle officially marking the occasion.
The efforts of the Citizens Library Movement of Beauregard Parish resulted in the Police Jury passing an ordinance establishing a parish public library on July 10, 1945. Ladies of this group collected 25 cent donations from businesses and individuals to fund the initial expenses. Library service began on December 11, 1947, when the Louisiana State Library opened a demonstration library in three rooms of the War Memorial Civic Center.
Merryville Branch opened on December 16, 1947 and Carver Branch opened on April 2, 1948. The bookmobile, a Willys 1947 model truck arrived December 31, 1947 and began with five routes reaching communities in rural areas of the Parish.
The success of the Demonstration Library is evidenced by the passage of a special two mill tax for a period of ten years after only six months of library service. The Headquarters/DeRidder Branch remained in the War Memorial Civic Center until May 30, 1953, when Open House was held in a renovated building at 205 South Washington Avenue.
Carver Branch, located in Carver School, was phased out in 1969 after a school library had been established.
The Library continued to grow in circulation, borrowers, services, and acquisitions. By 1970 it became apparent that a larger, more modern library was needed. On December 1, 1973, the citizens of the Parish passed a one-mill tax for construction of a new headquarters building and an additional one-mill tax for maintenance. An LSCA grant provided $125,000 in federal funds for the new building.
The Library was housed, temporarily, at 202 North Division while the new facility was under construction. The ground breaking ceremony was held on September 19, 1974, with the doors of the 11,600 square foot facility opening on December 27, 1975.
Unfortunately, this building was destroyed by fire in September 1991 forcing the Library into temporary quarters until reconstruction could be completed. The Library's renovated and enlarged Headquarters/DeRidder Branch opened to the public on June 26, 1995. Construction cost of $1,130,000 was funded from insurance settlement, a certificate of indebtedness, and savings from operation of the Library during the re-building period.
The Library's design is influenced by the other buildings in the area. The project concept was to design a functional attractive modern structure that would serve as a transitional building to blend the existing historic buildings in the downtown area with the other newer nearby buildings while preserving and using as much of the damaged building as possible.
The renovated/enlarged Library has 17,743 square feet of space with 12,915 being renovated from the damaged library building and an adjacent branch bank and 4,828 square feet being new construction.
In addition to the usual library areas, such as meeting room, children's room, magazine and newspaper area, video and audio cassette section, the building has a quiet study room; special needs center with Visual-Tek enlarging machine, magnifiers, and large print materials; children's bathroom; public use equipment room; a young adult corner and an electronic library center.
The Library is one of the State's four sites for The Foundation Center's Co-operating Collections for grants information from corporations and foundations for non-profit and governmental agencies. Since 1991, the Library has been serving the Southwest Louisiana and East Texas area for those seeking grants to carry out their projects. The collection has recently been up-dated to include cdrom based information as well as the print materials.
The Local History Collection provides information on the people, places, and events that have shaped our heritage. Video cassette tapes recorded from an on-going series of presentations sponsored by the local Museum provides valuable oral history by those who were participants.
The Adult New Readers collection provides supplemental reading materials for literacy activities. A computer for literacy activities with appropriate software was added to this collection in 1998.
The Library's computer system is a custom designed program running on a Unify data base management system under Linux operating system. The system has been evolving since the early 1980's when the Library first recognized the need for the use of technology to help with the daily clerical operations. This early primitive system ran on Tandy personal computers and allowed for the automated circulation of library material.
The system was changed and improved over the years with the most recent improvements to the system allowing for Internet and dial-up access to the on-line computer catalog. Area residents may locate resources, place requests, renew library materials and register for a library card using the World Wide Web interface or a standard modem connection.
With funding from a LSCA Technology Grant in 1996 and 1997, the Library began establishing the ParishWide Information Network to help overcome barriers to information access and technology literacy for area residents. The grant allowed the Library to build on the one public access computer provided by the LOUIS project. Six public access computers with Internet access through a T1 line, a shared project to provide Internet access to the schools through a line from the school's central office building, six (now eight) modem dial up lines for public access, three kiosk computer units for non-staffed sites, and a mobile electronic library have been provided.
The mobile electronic library is based on the
bookmobile concept. The vehicle will take computers, electronic
information and the Internet to the users. The unit has space for eight
computer workstations with handicap accessibility lift. Power for
the computers, lights, air conditioning and heat is provided from a
generator or from a shore line that can be plugged in at the host site.
Internet and on-line access can be provided through the wireless system
or over a telephone line.
The kiosk computer units will provide access to the Library's home page and on-line library services from un-staffed locations throughout the Parish. The first unit was placed at the local hospital. The Merryville Housing Authority will receive one and the South Beauregard Museum will receive the other one.
Wireless technology will connect other government
agencies -- Sheriff's Office, City Hall, City Police, and others --
to the Library's system.
Gates Foundation Grant has provided four more public access computers for the DeRidder Branch. In addition, the Library was selected as one of the five regional training sites for public library staffs and received ten additional computers that will remain with the Library at the conclusion of the training. This computer lab will allow for classes on the use of electronic resources to be taught during the time the Library is open. The grant will also provide one public access computer for each of the six new rural library branches.
For the latest information on the Library and Beauregard Parish visit the Library at library.beau.org
This Library's Rural Outreach and Delivery System has been an attempt to establish service center locations in the rural areas of the Parish in partnership with other government and service agencies in order to share the cost of acquiring, staffing, and maintaining the sites.
Through this partnership initiative six sites have been acquired at no cost. Full service branch libraries, sheriff's sub-stations, and other government and service agencies will operate out of the site locations with-in ten miles of most Parish residents. The six sites were opened in November 1998.
The Library provides a full range of traditional library services enhanced by reference by telephone, fax, and e-mail; graphical Internet access from in-house and modem lines; library materials renewals by telephone or e-mail; on-line catalog searching, library request on-line, and library card applications on-line.
Free classes on topics such as Introduction to Hardware and Software, Marketing on the Internet; Web Page Design; Business Opportunity on the Internet; Introduction to the Internet are taught by volunteers, library staff or in cooperation with other agencies such as the Orange Electronic Commerce Resource Center and Lamar University.
Adult services programming is provided once a month to area nursing homes. Recent events included a "memorabilia collection" of once familiar household items; a poetry day, and a grandparents program.
Preschool story times, young adult activities, summer youth programs, home school programs, and special touring performers are all part of the array of services for the younger library users. The Library's mobile electronic library will be used at a newly established after school center for use in the "homework center" time and for educational software access.
The Library's circulation of 381,017 ranked it number one in per capita circulation in the State in 1996. With a collection of 61,498 items and 39 patron visits per hour, the Library is a busy place.
Local Facts of Interest
The Library received the Louisiana Library Association's Modisette Award For Public Libraries in March 1998.
The Library is a member of Libraries Southwest. This group sponsors all-staff workshops, trustee education programs, author's dinners, monthly public and academic library director's meetings, and the Libraries Southwest Borrower's Card.