About Your Library
The Library owes its existence to the Louisiana Library Commission, the forerunner of the present Louisiana State Library, and to the demonstration method of public library development. The Washington Parish Demonstration was one of a series of demonstrations that the Louisiana Library Commission conducted between 1925-1968.
In 1925, the Carnegie Foundation awarded a $50,000 grant to Louisiana to demonstrate library service on a statewide basis. Under the leadership of the first State Librarian, Essie M. Culver, the Louisiana Library Commission began operations from an office in the old State Capitol. Only five public libraries existed in the state at the time, and these were inadequately equipped and supported. The remaining fifty-nine parishes did not have any public library service. The commission’s primary goal was to insure a sound and permanent basis for library growth in the state. To accomplish this goal within the constraints of its limited resource, the commission adopted the demonstration method of public library development at the parish level.
A parish or region was selected for a demonstration library on the basis of community support and evident interest in public library development. The method was based on the theory that if parish residents had the opportunity to experience good, efficient library service they would recognize its value and vote to continue the service after the demonstration was completed. In nearly every case, the theory proved true.
The demonstration was a cooperative effort with the Library Commission contributing funds for salaries, professionally trained staff, book collections, magazines, bookmobiles (when available), and administrative supplies. The parish provided the building, the furniture, and paid the library’s utility bills. The parish police jury furnished funds for the overall operating expenses. After the year’s demonstration, the parish was expected to assume responsibility for the library’s continued support through the passage of a special tax for that purpose.
Washington Parish became the 22nd parish in Louisiana to host a demonstration library. For over twenty years interested groups in the parish had wanted parish wide library service. The Waverly Club of Franklinton was one of the organizations instrumental in persuading the Library Commission to select Washington Parish as a site for library development. With the initiative coming from local citizens, and after the police jury had passed an ordinance establishing the library, the Library Commission agreed to set up a parish library and staff and operate it for one year. Ten thousand books were shipped from the Commission Library in Baton Rouge and deposited in the Franklinton and Bogalusa libraries. It was understood that if the special library tax passed, the books furnished by the state during the initial year would remain as a gift.
The organization meeting of the Washington Parish Library Board of Control was held on March 19, 1946 at the courthouse in Franklinton. Griffith Johnson of Franklinton was elected President. Dr. J. Pat Horton, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Franklinton, was elected Vice-president. Helen Dykes, parish librarian, served as secretary. Arnold Fussell, Police Jury President, was an ex-officio member of the Board. Other members of the original board were: Mrs. A. R. Yates, Mrs. Zeke Warren, and Mrs. J. M. Stafford. At this meeting the board discussed plans for the opening in April, 1946 of the Washington Parish Library Demonstration. Branches were to be established in various communities throughout the parish: Bogalusa, Franklinton, Varnado, Mt. Hermon, Enon, Thomas, Pine, and Angie.
The Washington Parish Library Demonstration celebrated its formal opening on Sunday, April 28, 1946. The headquarters library in Franklinton held its opening ceremony at 2:30 p.m. at the Masonic Building. The Bogalusa Branch was formally opened the same day at 4:30 p.m. in the library room at the OPA (Office of Price Administration) building on Austin Street. Civic leaders responsible for the coming of the Library, representatives of the Louisiana Library Commission, interested citizens from other parishes, and local residents gathered to commemorate the event.
The demonstration began with two libraries: one in Franklinton, the parish seat, and another in Bogalusa, the parish�s largest city. The headquarters library was located in Franklinton at the Waverly Club Building. The Library staff in Franklinton included Miss Helen Dykes, the parish librarian, and Miss Frankie Miller, the clerical assistant in the headquarters office. The Bogalusa Library was located in half of the (OPA) Office of Price Administration building on Austin Street. The Bogalusa Branch librarian was Ellis A. Stringer.
In the period immediately following the opening of the first two libraries, smaller branches were opened at Angie, Enon, and Mt. Hermon. The Angie Branch Library was located in the Sones Store and Mrs. Murray Sones served as custodian of the collection. Mrs. George McIlwain was the custodian at the Enon Branch which was located in the polling booth. The Mt. Hermon Branch Library was located in the Ott Brothers Store and Mrs. John Ott was the custodian.
By August 1946, real progress had been made in extending library service throughout Washington Parish. Nine branches had been established: Angie, Bogalusa, Johnson, Thomas, Crain, Franklinton, Enon, Mr. Hermon, and Richardson. The Terrace Branch in Bogalusa and the Sunny Hill Branch were added in September. By January 1947, the Varnado and Pine Branches had opened bringing the total number of branches to thirteen.
On February 25, 1947, a tax election was held for the maintenance and support of the Library. The taxes were passed and the Washington Parish Library became permanently established. The people of Washington Parish had realized their dream: a public library with its storehouse of educational, cultural informational, and recreational resources free and available to every citizen of the parish.