The library truck in front of the original Webster Parish Library. Photo date unknown.
To most alive today, Webster Parish Library (WPL) has been an established part of the community for their entire lives. When the library was formed, however, it was a grand experiment that garnered national attention
“Webster Parish, long prominent for its splendid school organization and progress, was recommended by the Louisiana Library Commission as the library demonstration parish to receive aid from the Rosenwald Fund and is the first Louisiana community to be thus benefited.” – Journal of the Louisiana Teacher’s Association – October, 1929
Rosenwald provided matching funds over five years that had certain stipulations.
“Mr. Clark Foreman, representative of the Rosenwald fund, had specified that the aid must be given to a parish willing to establish a library conforming to the provisions of the state library law, to one willing to provide a maintenance fund, employ a trained librarian and to serve all citizens of the parish including the negro population. This last provision necessarily meant that a separate collection of books must be maintained and a negro librarian employed to supervise this service…” – Journal of the Louisiana Teacher’s Association, October, 1929
That librarian, farmer and respected member of the community J.A. Colbert, provided “one of the most interesting exhibits” at the parish fair on the new library and its services. According to an October, 16 1929 Signal Tribune article he found a new passion in the library.
“Colbert is intensely interested in his work. It is the only occupation he has found interesting enough to put his farm (which he manages scientifically) in the background. In previous years Colbert’s farm exhibits have been the best at the fair.” Signal Tribune article, October 16, 1929.
WPL first opened its doors on Thursday October 3, 1929 in the Chrysler Building on Broadway in Minden. To reach the rest of the parish, a truck was bought to provide a relatively new concept in library service: a bookmobile. The truck bore the slogan, “Books–Service–Free to All.”
School libraries were also placed under the direction of the library board and head librarian, Mary Walton Harris. Harris worked with a school librarian and multiple librarian-teachers to coordinate collections to better serve as many parish citizens as possible.
“The regulations of the Webster Parish Library will be such that they will enable the library to be of greatest service to all Webster parish people.” – Mary Walton Harris, Signal Tribune article, Sept. 9, 1929.
Today, WPL boasts diverse patrons and a staff dedicated to providing the best service to all who step through our doors.
The days of libraries as large depositories of books are dwindling; however, as Webster Parish Library moves forward in an ever-changing technological world it is still our goal to provide the “greatest service to all Webster parish people,” in whatever form that may take.
J.A. Colbert, librarian and farmer, stands in front of his Webster Parish Library exhibit at the parish fair. Circa 1936