New Orleans Public Library
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The system began in 1895 in the Fisk Free and Public Library in a building on Lafayette Square. Abijah Fisk was a merchant who, over fifty years earlier, had left his house—at the corner of Iberville and Bourbon Streets—to the city for use as a library. Subsequent donations had resulted in libraries and collections not completely free and open to the citizenry. An 1896 city ordinance proposed by Mayor John Fitzpatrick combined the Fisk collection with a newer municipal library. It eventually became known as the New Orleans Public Library.
On January 18, 1897 the library opened its doors to the public. At that time the collection comprised over 35,000 volumes. A significant portion of the collection was obtained from the Fisk Free and Public Library and the Public School Lyceum and Library. The first librarian was William Beer who concurrently worked as a librarian at another library in New Orleans: the Howard Memorial Library. Beer resigned from NOPL to focus on his work at the Howard Memorial Library in 1906. His successor was Henry Gill.
A turn of the 20th century donation of $50,000 from businessman Simon Hernsheim allowed the library to begin building a significant collection. In 1902 the city received $250,000 from Andrew Carnegie to build a new main library and three branches. By 1908, the new main library was open at Lee Circle, and branches were open on Royal Street at Frenchmen Street the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, on Pelican Avenue in Algiers, and on Napoleon Avenue near Magazine Street Uptown.
By 2005, NOPL had a dozen branches in addition to a newer (1960) main library on Loyola Avenue. The branches included Algiers and Napoleon, mentioned above, although renamed.
Effects of Hurricane Katrina
NOPL was severely impacted by Hurricane Katrina on 29 August 2005. Damage to branch locations ran from two windows broken at the Cita Dennis Hubbell Branch in Algiers to complete destruction of the Martin Luther King Branch in the heavily damaged northern section of the Lower 9th Ward. Photographs of branch building damage are available on the library's website.
With the devastation of the city and the crippling of city government, NOPL was forced to lay off 90 percent of its employees. All libraries were closed for over two months. The 19 remaining staff members, when they were able to re-enter the city, began surveying damage and salvaging assets.
Two branches—Hubbell and Nix (on Carrollton Avenue uptown)—reopened with limited services (no circulation) on 31 October 2005. Part of the Main Library also reopened. Library administrators began looking for outside sources of funds to begin hiring additional staff.
From the 4 libraries in 1908, the New Orleans Public Library system continued to expand. In 2005, the system included three regional, three major and six neighborhood branches; as of 11 June 2008 the system had ten branches, including temporary branches.
Former branches in the 20th century
From 1908 to 1959, the main branch was on Lee Circle; it was demolished after the opening of the current main branch. The Marigny Branch on Frenchmen & Royal at Washington Square, one of the original Carnegie Branch libraries, was severely damaged in Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and demolished. From 1915 to 1965 there was a Central City branch at Dryades & Philip Street, originally the main "Colored" library during the era of racial segregation. A former Mid-City branch was on Canal Street at Gayoso.
Summary of branch changes from 2005 to date
- Algiers Regional Branch, 3014 Holiday Drive, Algiers. Opened in 1966. Katrina damage: part of facade blew off two sides; wind-driven rain destroyed books and equipment; ceiling tiles fell; mold; closed indefinitely. A temporary library in a trailer was operated in the parking lot. Building demolished in 2010; a new larger branch library opened in summer 2012.
- Alvar Branch, 913 Alvar Street, Bywater neighborhood. A Works Progress Administration-built edifice, it opened in 1940. In Katrina, flooded about a foot of water; books, furnishings, and computers damaged; reopened.
- Children's Resource Center, 913 Napoleon Avenue, Uptown New Orleans. Opened in 1908 (was Napoleon Branch, one of the Carnegie libraries). Two large windows broken by Hurricane Katrina. Branch is open.
- Cita Dennis Hubbell Branch, 725 Pelican Avenue, Algiers Point. Opened in 1907, one of the Carnegie libraries. Closed in 1966 after the opening of the Algiers Regional Branch ; reopened as Algiers Point Branch in 1975; renamed Hubbell in 2002. Two broken windows by Hurricane Katrina; reopened 31 October 2005. In May 2008 an architectural assessment found the roof of the century-old building to be in danger of collapse, prompting a closing for an indefinite time as of 24 May 2008. As of May 2013, a temporary library is in the carriage house of the Algiers Point Courthouse; the original Carnegie building on Pelican Avenue is scheduled to reopen in July 2013.
- East New Orleans Regional Branch, 5641 Read Boulevard, Eastern New Orleans. Opened in 1968. Major flooding in Hurricane Katrina; fish in parking lot; closed indefinitely. Temporary branch library was in trailer on lot. New building opened in 2012.
- Main Library, 219 Loyola Avenue, New Orleans Central Business District. Opened in 1960. In Hurricane Katrina, some broken windows and floor damage from roof leaks; basement stayed dry. Partially reopened on 31 October 2005; fully operational as of August 2007. Some of the Main Library facility was used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies and contractors working on disaster recovery.
- Martin Luther King Branch, 1611 Caffin Avenue in the Lower 9th Ward. Opened in 1995. Considered completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The building, housing both the library and a school, was gutted and rebuilt. The library reopened on 5 October 2007. Site of a temporary branch funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Gulf Coast Libraries Project.
- Mid-City Branch. On 11 June 2007, a branch library opened at 330 N. Carrollton Avenue in a recovering shopping center storefront. It was the first of several temporary branches funded by the Gates Foundation. As of 2012, the Mid-City branch has been moved the American Can Factory Building on Orleans Avenue.
- Milton H. Latter Memorial Branch, 5120 St. Charles Avenue. Opened in 1948 in a mansion built in 1907. Former owner/residents included silent film star Marguerite Clark. Some roof damage from Hurricane Katrina; reopened early 2006. The Latter branch was closed July 29-October 30, 2013 for extensive renovations and repairs, including new flooring, paint, and an expanded children's area.
- Nix Branch, 1401 S. Carrollton Avenue, Carrollton neighborhood. Opened in 1930. Katrina damage: broken windows on all sides; reopened 31 October 2005. It was damaged by a tornado on 13 February 2007, forcing a temporary closure for repair, and reopened the following month.
- Nora Navra Branch, 1902 St. Bernard Avenue. Opened in 1954. Major flooding in Hurricane Katrina; very little salvageable; closed indefinitely. As of June 2012, the only branch with neither reopened nor with temporary nor permanent replacement.
- Norman Mayer (Gentilly) Branch, 2098 Foy Street, Gentilly neighborhood. Opened in 1949. Major flooding in Hurricane Katrina; building was demolished. During construction of a new branch library at the same location a temporary branch library was housed in a nearby strip mall at 2077 Caton Street. New library building opened in spring 2012.
- Robert E. Smith Regional Branch, 6301 Canal Boulevard, Lakeview neighborhood. The original branch at this location opened in 1956; in 1979 it was replaced by a larger building. Interior of first floor completely destroyed by Katrina flooding. After being served by a bookmobile parked in front of building for a few years, a temporary branch in trailer 2 blocks down Harrison Avenue opened, and the building was demolished in 2009. The new library opened in spring 2012.
- Rosa Keller Branch, 4300 S. Broad Street, Broadmoor neighborhood. Opened in 1993 in a 1918 residence. Major flooding in Hurricane Katrina; wood floors buckled; mold. For 5 years the branch was housed temporarily in a modular building. The historic Keller home was restored now operates as a community center. The 1990s addition was torn down and was replaced by a LEED certified addition to house the library and computer center. The renovation and expansion is being funded, in part, by a $2 million grant secured by the Broadmoor Improvement Association. The new library and community center, including a cafe, opened in summer 2012.
- Kraus, Joe Walker (1952). William Beer and the New Orleans Libraries, 1891-1927. Publications Committee of the Association of College and Reference Libraries. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
- "NOPL Centennial Exhibit". New Orleans Public Library. Retrieved 2006-07-27.
- "Branch libraries". New Orleans Public Library. Retrieved 2008-06-11.
- "Hubbell Library history". Hubbell Library. Retrieved 2006-03-05.
- "Algiers library to close Saturday". New Orleans Times-Picayune. 2008-05-22. Retrieved 2008-06-11.
- https://www.facebook.com/hublib/posts/10152807213370408 "Hubbell Library Facebook page". 22 May 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
- http://villagegreenlibrary.org/content/rosa-keller-library Village Green at the New Orleans Public Library. Retrieved on 2010-07-09
- http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/17456/community_identifies_rosa_f_keller_library_as_priority_project.html?breadcrumb=%2Fproject%2F54%2Fbroadmoor_project Belfer Center, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Retrieved on 2010-07-09
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to New Orleans Public Library.|
- NOPL official Web site
- Cita Dennis Hubbell Branch