About the Library
Known today as one of the best libraries in the state of Louisiana, Ouachita Parish Public Library began modestly in a one-room building with a budget of $50.00 per month. It has evolved into a ten branch system with a $4.5 million budget. To make such a phenomenal growth in only 84 years, the people associated with the library over the years had to have worked very diligently toward that goal.
The first mention of a library in Monroe was in late 1884. A letter to the editor of the Monroe Bulletin (August 27, 1884) from Mr. Ralph H. Prosser relates the progress of the Public Library Association:
"In the middle of last April, a meeting of the Board of Directors was held at the office of Messrs. Millsaps & Sholars, Mr. Franklin Garrett presided. At this meeting, among other committees, one was appointed, of which I was chairman, to solicit contributions for repairs of the building and the necessary preparation of it for books."
It was reported that $125 had been raised in subscriptions, of which $25 was paid to Judge Gunby for furniture. It was also reported that $200 was needed to buy books, repair the building and buy shelves. We can find no more mention of the library until 1913.
In early 1913, the Twentieth Century Book Club issued invitations to various clubs and organizations to meet for the "purpose of obtaining a public library." An association was formed to study the matter and on May 12, 1913, the Library Association met with a large number present. The main accomplishment of this meeting was to establish the fact that a library was needed and desired by the citizens of Monroe. No records of further action by this particular association have been found.
Judge A.A. Gunby was so interested in the library movement that he searched the archives of the City in 1915, and found the will of Mrs. Louise L. McGuire, who had bequeathed to Monroe a little one-room building on Wood Street, opposite the Court House, with the "hope" that it would someday be used for a library. The building had been used for storage and to store coal, so it needed lots of repairs. Charter memberships were solicited and the building was repaired. A book shower was held and citizens were asked to bring books or money for the new library. Now all that remained was to hire a librarian to manage the library.
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