September Librarian’s Lines
Dr. Linda LeBert-Corbello
The time has finally arrived. The Jefferson Davis Parish Library Headquarters will open officially on October 1, 2014. The months may have been long in passing for each of you. For those of us who work here, it has both been long and quite challenging. After so many years waiting to be ‘the library’ that would be renovated (the last in the parish), the staff and I were eager to begin a project that allowed all of us input. Many thanks to Ms. Suzanne Young, Headquarters Manager, for her thoughtful decisions regarding colors of paint, end panels for the shelves, granite and a selection list that goes on and on! Assistant Branch Manager Wendy Prather also assisted in making choices and offered boundless energy in working during these changing times. The remaining members of the headquarters staff played a very important role in the organizing of various aspects to make the project move forward. Staff from other libraries also assisted at different times in packing or unpacking books. Last Thursday all parish libraries were closed so that the entire parish staff could participate in the process of ‘reading shelves’, cleaning and organizing the Headquarters Branch. What a lively time was enjoyed by this group of dynamic, dedicated employees!
We welcome all of you on October 1, 2014 during regular library hours. We have purposely scheduled the official Grand Re-Opening for Monday, October 20, 2014 to insure that everything is in top order. We will begin that event with TEA TIME that will occur from 3-5 PM. Refreshments and tea will be served. Beginning at 5 PM there will be a formal ceremony followed by additional refreshments.
The historic information for this building remains so fascinating to us. In the fall of 1914, construction began at the corner of Plaquemine and Cary Streets for the new Jennings post office. The building was completed by 1915 for approximately $45,000. In 1967, Jefferson Davis parish was the last of the sixty four parishes in the state to approve the establishment of a parish-wide library system. The following year (1968) the Jefferson Davis Parish Demonstration Library was opened at 526 North Main Street in Jennings in a storefront building. Alice Porter served at the first Parish Librarian. The demonstration library proved to be a successful project. The parish then assumed the responsibility for operating the library system. It is interesting to note that the library opened its doors on Main Street on October 20, 1968. The Grand-Reopening scheduled this year on October 20 marks a 46 year anniversary.
The Post Office was later relocated to a new location in 1976. The Jefferson Davis Parish Police Jury purchased the vacant facility on March 23, 1977 for a price of $60,000. The building has seen many patrons, activities, children’s programs and lectures. ‘If the walls could talk’…oh, the stories we would hear. The Police Jury, the Board of Trustees and the library staff are honored to be a part of the history of our parish. We are privileged to work for the betterment of our community by providing services that enrich the lives of the people of our parish. Come, please, and join us during this momentous time in the history of our parish by visiting our library and/or attending our opening ceremonies.
February Librarian’s Lines include the presentation given on the occasion of the 40th year that the McBurney Memorial Library building has served the public. It is the third and final home of library services in Welsh, Louisiana. Dr. Linda LeBert-Corbello lived in Welsh and was able to utilize each library building….she shares her memories of Welsh and the thrill of having a library.
Welsh Public Library
When a parish wide tax failed in Welsh for a free public library in 1927, citizens united with Miss Essae M. Cullver, Executive Secretary of the Louisiana Library Commission ,and Hon. J.O. Modisette, President of the Louisiana Library Commission and a Jennings lawyer. These two people met with the Board of Trustees for the Town of Welsh in the Masonic Hall in July 1929. A decision was made that if Welsh could provide a fund that would maintain a library, the Louisiana Library Commission would send 500 loaned volumes to serve as Welsh’s first public and free library. According to historical records, the Town Board agreed to a one mill reduction on other taxes in order not to raise anyone’s taxes. The ordinance adopted on September 4, 1929 read:
“A Proposition to levy and assess and collect annually a one mill tax on all of the assessed and assessable property of the Town of Welsh, Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana, for a period of five years, beginning with the year 1929 and ending with the year 1933, for the purpose of supporting, operating, and maintaining a municipal, free public library in the Town of Welsh, Louisiana, title to which shall vest in the public.”
These efforts resulted in a fund of $900 a year to pay the librarian and buy new books and magazines. The Library Board was established and consisted of:
- Mrs. A. R. McBurney, President
- Dr. B.J. LaCour, Vice-President
- Mrs. R. R. Arceneaux, Secretary
- Mrs. W.E. Faught, Treasurer
- S.E. Carroll
- Mrs. Laura Mae Kimball, Librarian.
- Ex-officio members included: John W. Armstrong, Mayor of Welsh, Mr. P.E. Wilson, Principal of Welsh High School and Miss Mary Yantis, Chairman of the Book Selection Committee.
The library was opened on February 25, 1930. The State Library Commission loaned 500 volumes to Welsh City Hall to serve as Welsh’s first public and free library. During the first year the following statistics were kept:
- 3462 adult books checked out.
- 3342 children’s books were checked out.
As a personal note, I was born in 1951 and lived in Welsh. I remember the court house square. City Hall was a beautiful massive building set in the middle of the location of the present police & fire station. I remember walking to the library with my Mom and siblings and noting the signs posted on the grass surrounding the library: KEEP OFF GRASS! I was amazed because even in the heat of summer the City Hall grass was always green. I also vividly remember walking into the City Hall to the back of the building where the books were kept. I remember the smell of that room like it was yesterday. Wonderful smell of books…lots of books. We were each allowed to check out only two books. Being one of seven siblings gave us an edge in that we would often share the books with each other after reading our own. I would have been 8 years old when the library was then moved to the Home Economics Building in June 1959. Documents state that Miss Essae M. Culver, State Librarians and Louisiana dignitaries attended the October Open House.
The new library became my new favorite. It seemed like a real house of books. We still walked to the library (my Mother never drove a car). Sometimes, my older sisters would be the ones to walk us to the library on those very hot summer days. I can still feel the hot blacktop road against my feet and the hot stones & rails along the railroad tracks. The new building must have meant more books because I can remember thinking…how will I ever read all of these books? I remember spending one summer reading every biography in a series that were blue-green with red lettering for the titles. How I loved reading of Florence Nightingale, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and so many others.
Another pleasant memory of our library visits included visiting the Busy Bee Café and getting an ice cream cone on the way home. I felt like a special little girl sitting on a red bar stood waiting my turn. Ice cream cones were only for special times, not every time we went to the library….boy were they not the best I ever had? I still smell the scent of the Busy Bee Café and I am sure my fellow Welsh Citizens remember it also. It was like Mom’s best cooking and Christmas day cooking all wrapped together in a neat package.
In 1968 the Welsh Library became a part of the Parish Library System. Mrs. A.R. McBurney was one of the first members of the Library Board.
Mayor Jimmy Martin, who was also representative-elect of Jeff Davis Parish, appeared before the Police Jury and stated that the Welsh Town Council would donate the site for the library building if the Police Jury would take over paving payments that would decrease each year and be completely paid within ten years. This was accepted by the Police Jury. The current building was built at a cost of $80,000. It was financed by 60% of federal monies secured by the Jeff Davis Parish Police Jury and the remaining 40% donated by Mrs. A. R. McBurney as a memorial to her deceased husband A.R. McBurney and her deceased son Dr. William McBurney. The building was built on the corner section of the property with the plans for a tie in with the ultimate construction of a Welsh Civic Center. The building was renovated in 2010 to re-purpose the building for technology changes, appropriate functionality of the building for all ages and all events and general updating for a more modern décor.
This library has a total 14,256 holdings that include books, books on cassette, books on CDs, DVDs, e-books, music CDs, paperbacks, video games, laptop computers for check out and so much more. Databases on our website allow for incredible research possibilities. Last year a total of 11, 527 items were checked out. Denice Sonnier is an incredible manager providing so many new ideas for sharing with patrons. Patrick Guillory is a creative Children’s facilitator and assistant manager. We thank them both for the excellent services they provide for the people of Jefferson Davis Parish.
As I researched the information on the progress of your library system I have to tell you how very honored I was when I read that Mrs. Culver and Mr. Modisette aided our citizens in Welsh in their efforts to establish the first public library in Welsh. Why? Both of these prominent people who are now deceased have awards in their name that are presented by the Louisiana Library Association.
Jefferson Davis Parish Library received the Modisette Award in 2008 for the most improved library system in the state over a two year period. It was a grand evening in Shreveport when I stood at the podium accepting that award on behalf of all the work accomplished in our library system.
Today reminds me that our work makes a difference in the lives of our patrons. It was so kind and so very wise to take time to celebrate such victory for Welsh and its library. Thank you so very much.
Librarian’s Lines Dr. Linda LeBert-Corbello August 2012
“Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark… in any library in the world I am at home, unselfconscious, still and absorbed.” (Germaine Greer)
What a profound statement! I believe that my employees and I share this sentiment when it comes to our workplace. Not only do we provide reservoirs of strength, grace and wit as mentioned above, but we continue to build our repositories of books, materials and services for the patrons of Jefferson Davis Parish.
In recent years, I have enlisted the assistance of all library personnel in obtaining new materials for our collection. I firmly believe that the individual branch managers know their patrons within their local communities. This has greatly increased the progress in the book collections at all library branches including our Mobile Branch.
While assisting with processing of books, I just was so pleased at the choices that each branch manager selected. I could not possibly detail the many hundreds of books added to the collection this summer. However, I thought that I could highlight a few titles that would be of interest at this time of year. With the approach of a new school year, adults and children alike embark on the journey of returning to school or universities to increase their knowledge base. Here are a few titles to maybe tempt you to step inside our doors. We would love to be at your service. These are just a taste …so many other delicious titles await you!
For the student (adult or child):
Writing the AP English Essay
SAT Subject Test Literature (practice tests)
5 TEAS Practice Tests (Nursing)
Multiplication & Division
For the Job Seeker:
Resumes for Dummies
Computer for Seniors
Managing and Troubleshooting Networks
Letterhead & Logo Design 11
The Big Book of Jobs
For the Hunter:
Standard catalog of Handguns
Shotgunning for Deer
For those who have time for fun:
Busy Girl’s Guide to Cake Decorating
Digital Painting Tricks and Techniques
Complete Colored Pencil Book
Hot Rod Wiring
Creative Paint Workshop for Mixed-Media Artists
All of our titles are available to all patrons. If you come to Jennings and the book is housed at another library, know that we can have that book to you as soon as possible. This is true at all library branches. All anyone has to do is request a title from the librarian. We aim to please. Come visit us and allow yourself to be still and absorbed in our collection. We are having such fun, are you?