All photos courtesy of the Louisiana Digital Library.
If you have other pictures that might be valuable to our library heritage, please call and talk with Mrs. Jones at 225-683-8753. We would like to know and share even more of our history for future generations to see!!
Grand Opening of Audubon Regional Library in 1961
Compiled and written by Anne O'Brien and Evelyn Wilson
1914 – 1919
When some prominent women of Clinton determined that the town needed a library, they met and began to collect books and money. By 1917, they felt that they were ready to start a simple library; they had books and volunteers and were ready to go. They were hampered from moving forward because married women at that time were not in charge of their own resources. They needed permission from their husbands to enter into contracts, so they encouraged their husbands, brothers, and other males to help. Sixteen men and five women, Charles Kilbourne, George J. Reiley, A. P. Irwin, H. H. Kilbourne, George J. Woodside, I. L. Heyman, C. W. Ball, W. L. Haney, J. L. Cravens, T. H. Going, H. P. Hatcher, W. H. Bennett, Seraphine Heyman, J. D. Hubbs, and L. E. Hanks, signed the Articles of Incorporation to create the Clinton Community Library. The other members of the Association were E. I. Dunn, May McKnight, Mary C. Record, Dr. E. M. Toler, Mrs. George Woodside, and Mrs. Charles Kilbourne.
On November 5, 1919, the group’s name was officially changed from Clinton Community Library to the East Feliciana Memorial Library to honor the men from East Feliciana who had died in World War I. At that same time, the group purchased the building in which the library now stands from Amy Reiley Jones. The East Feliciana Memorial Association still holds the title to the building. The group’s new title, the East Feliciana Memorial Library Association, changed the base for the library support from just the town of Clinton to the parish of East Feliciana.
The new library building consisted of two halves. The west side was rented for a Post Office, and the east side was the library of donated books and volunteer workers. Mr. Hardesty provides a description of how the small children’s room was arranged: “The books for Beginners were on the low shelves, and graduating on up to the teen-age group on the higher shelves. For the boys, there were the Rover Boys, Tom Swift, and the Horatio Alger series. I remember the Bobbsey Twins, Pollyanna, and a few others for the girls, as we sometimes stole glances over to their shelves. Miss Ellie, the librarian, had the self-assumed task and authority of censoring all books and magazines which came to the library. There was no fuss of her censorship; in fact, everyone seemed to have a certain sense of security that Miss Ellie was protecting the morals of the community.” Mr. Hardesty also describes Miss Ellie’s large horn. A person wanting to speak to Miss Ellie had to speak loudly into her horn so that Miss Ellie could hear. Everybody in the building was disturbed when someone had a conversation with her.
The post office was moved from the west side of the building sometime in the late 20’s. A number of years passed before the library expanded into that space. In the meantime, the west side was used for dancing and music lessons. There is some disagreement among Billy Kline, Jean Butler Montgomery, June Record Boutte, and Liz Record Stout as to just where the lessons were held. Some thought on the porch and others thought in the big west side room where the Post Office had been. At any rate, all agreed that the lessons were a lot of fun with Margaret Powell teaching tap, Kenneth Fisher teaching ballroom, while Anne Moise played piano to provide music. Rex Record and Jean’s sister, Margaret Esther, were also dance students. Most believed that their reviews were held in the Courthouse.
In talking to Skeet McKnight about his early recollections of the library and the dancing lessons, he admitted that he was not a library patron nor did he take dancing lessons. But he did remember that a Dr. Shaw had an animal clinic somewhere on Lawyer’s Row with a shed in the back. One Halloween, Top Jackson and Arch Doughty took his wagon apart and reassembled it on the top of the shed. Skeet said, “I don’t suppose it matters if you use their names now. All of them have gone.” This did ring true with a comment that Billy Kline had made about some of the awful tricks that had been played on people living near the Lawyer’s Row area. He, of course, named no names.
Nelwyn Hatcher Tynes remembers that there were frequently articles in the paper about who had checked out books and brief book reports on all of the library’s new books, most of which were donated. She remembers that it seemed as if the library was the darkest place in town.
Jean Montgomery reports that in the summertime, the library was the coolest place in town. They would go there and just sit to cool off. “Then we would go to the icehouse and sit on a block of ice before returning home,” she laughed.
The library was a meeting place for the community, staffed by members and volunteers. Malcolm Cain kept meteorological records for the area for many years. After he turned his compiled data into the state office, he gave a copy to the library. For years, they were filed by year on a top shelf; perhaps they are still there.
Mildred Worrell tried to check out Deep Summer, but Mrs. Marie Adams thought it was inappropriate for her age, and maybe for anyone of any age. Mil reports that her mother went down to get it for her – and not in a quiet or polite way. The persons who used the library were all members of the library association, and children were only welcome if they were quiet and orderly.
The first three years of the 1960’s saw the library change from being a privately owned subscription library to becoming a part of a three-parish regional public system, supported by tax revenues from each parish. Many other changes were to take place in the next several years. Of course, the name changed again: East Feliciana Memorial Library became the Audubon Regional Library. It is always hard to give up control and to change attitudes quickly, so it is be expected that problems did arise. Following the two year demonstration period, which was funded by Louisiana State Library, Audubon Regional became the only three parish library system in the state in 1963.
Possibly the biggest change for the library was that a public library, supported by public funds, has to be open to all of its citizens, while a private library could have a controlled membership. The public nature of the library was tested in federal court. Also, state and federal regulations concerning safety regulations had to be followed. All concerned worked very hard and the system moved forward in its new role.
Marjorie Crowson replaced Marcia Perkins as library director. After Mrs. Crowson left, Moxie Martin served as director about 2 years, followed by Carolyn Pratt. As library services expanded, the need for more administrative space became more and more obvious. The much needed expansion on the back of the building to house administrative offices was completed during this decade as a result of a bequest made by Sarah Irwin Jones, with some funding provided by the Police Jury.
In 1974, the employees in East Feliciana were Librarian, Marjorie Crowson, Sue Record, Johnnie Edwards, Lucinda Johnson, Dollye Chaney, Earlene Davidson, Marylea Mims, Barbara Kilbourne, Marie Adams, and Nell Turnipseed.
Sharon Robins and her twin sister, Karen, were at Riley Elementary School from 1973 until 1979. She reports that her auntie, Marylee Mims, was one of the Bookmobile drivers. She and Karon were allowed to help their classmates select and check out books. As she remembers, “We thought that was pretty special.”
In 1981, Virginia Smith replaced Carolyn Pratt as Librarian and Evelyn Beauchamp relieved Marie Adams as Clinton branch assistant. When asked about exciting things that happened at the library while she was there, Mrs. Beauchamp had two things to report. First of all, the children’s programs were greatly expanded, particularly to encourage summer reading. The level of participation was very high. She also commented that Larry Cockrell could always be counted on for financial support whenever the library needed help. The other story that Evelyn Beauchamp shared was about the library’s most faithful patron, John Paul Jones. John came in each day to read the Wall Street Journal so he could check on the stock market. Laurel Smelly was working there also, and he often asked her advice on clothes. John’s mother, Camille D’Armond Jones, grew up on the Wildflower property.
In July of 1990, Martha Yancey took over with many hopes and plans for the system. Staff included Ginger Bunch, Evelyn Beauchamp, Laurel Smelley, Mary Lee Mims and Lucinda Johnson. The old bookmobile was no longer running, so Martha, with the help of advisor Joe Landrum from the State Library, ordered a custom made van which cost one-fourth of the amount of a regular bookmobile. It could be operated with one driver, rather than two, and got better gas mileage. The van was painted red, with the library logo in gold, held 1,000 books, and began service in May of 1991. Brenda Williams, followed by Dewey DeLee, were book van drivers. Others staff members to join the Clinton library were Jewell Kirby and Shunda Spurlock.
The State Library began offering Decentralized Arts Funding grant opportunities at this time, and Martha secured funding for a number of outstanding summer programs, bringing professional artists to perform and work with the children of the Clinton area. These grant funds also paid for a bus to bring Woodlands Community Center children to the programs. Playmakers, Karen Konnerth, puppeteer, magicians and storytellers charmed children and their families. Laurel Smelley and helper Brooke Peay offered crafts sessions on Thursday afternoons for the older children. For the adults, RELIC programs were offered by the Louisiana Division of the Humanities and included a series on the Viet Nam War, one on American poets and another on American writers, each conducted in the evening by LSU professors.
Longtime Board member Mary Bennett and Martha Yancey began the Friends of the Clinton Library in the early 1990’s. There were 28 members signed up by the first meeting. This enthusiastic group brought a number of authors to Clinton to promote their books, including Holly Clegg, Mary Ann Sternberg, Fran Spain and Gary Ross. When Holley Clegg came up to Clinton, Friends members prepared recipes from her Trim and Terrific cookbook and held a luncheon open to the public. The Friends group also raised funds for the library with successful used book sales. Much of the funding was used to provide books for the library.
Lula Pride followed Martha Yancey in February of 1997. Here are her comments: “During the 4.5 years I worked at Audubon, we were able to install public computers in all branches, thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grants. I, along with Rebecca Hamilton, selected and implemented an integrated library automation system, then cataloged all materials. With grant funds from the Pennington Foundation, we were able to select and purchase a new bookmobile. Finally, for the first time in library history, full-time library staff received health insurance. A federal program known as e-rate provided help for communications costs.”
Some others who worked in East Feliciana were Doris Buerger, Carol Giffin, Royann Lane, Tom Bigler, Diane Powell, Debbie Kula, Abe Williams, Pam Vickers, Jackie Thomason, Mary Jordan, Lynn Sheehan, Candy McGowen, Jerri Mix and Kitty Price.
Doris Buerger took over the responsibilities of the library after Lula’s departure. Lou Ida White reports on the success of the children’s programs held in the American Legion Hall. During the summer of 2002, she recalls taking Gatlin Morris to the programs and how much he loved the books. “He noticed,” Lou Ida reports, “that there was a shortage of bags to carry all of the books and supplies that Mrs. Buerger used, so he gathered up bags at his home and brought them to the next program.” His mother reports that he still loves to read and now owns at least 1,000 books of his own.
Unfortunately, there was a lot of turmoil in the governance of the library during the years from 1997 – 2002. A lot of industry had located in West Feliciana and their tax base was growing much faster than that of East Feliciana and St. Helena. In 1997, West Feliciana voted to alter the millage that had been promised to the library system. By 2002, when the next tax election came around, they cut off all support and withdrew from the system.
. The Audubon Regional Library System had to tighten its financial belt in 2003. The choice was made by the Library Board of Commissioners to relieve all three administrators of their positions. The persons so summarily released were Doris Buerger, Director; Royann Lane, Grant Writer and Programs Administrator, and Lucinda Johnson, Cataloguer. The branch managers did as best they could, but they operated without leadership. As 2003 drew to a close, the Library Board of Commissioners from Clinton, Aline Woodside and Mary Peterson, stepped up to run the system headquarters and to find a temporary director, Beatrice Parker.
Beatrice Parker’s short time as Acting Director was highlighted by the excellent Humanities programs that were held while she was there. One of the best was a series of lectures by Dr. Hilton from LSU about World War II. After the first night or so, Hadley Hudnall (who was attending his first ever library program) coordinated with the professor so that he could bring scale model planes that were used in the battles about which Dr. Hilton was lecturing. The Japanese and German planes were scaled 1:5, but the US Flying Fortress was scaled 1:8. All of these models were flyable, and the B-17 had the capability of having paratroopers eject from the plane during flight. It added interest to the lectures which were all thoroughly enjoyable for all ages.
Another excellent program was the review of Professor Evelyn Wilson’s book about the life of Charles J. Hatfield, whose lawsuit against LSU resulted in opening the Law School at Southern University. A large audience was present, many of whom were in law practice or from the Law Schools of LSU and Southern. Bettye Jackson Snowden, originally of Felixville, complimented the program and the library with these words: “In the late 50’s, I was in college in California. I had term papers due after Christmas. I couldn’t come home because there was no place here that I was allowed in to do research. It is wonderful to know that this library is now sponsoring functions like this where we can all listen and learn together.”
The earlier planning and preparation that had gone into having computers online for the public really paid off during Hurricane Katrina. The library was the only place that displaced citizens could go to log onto to the FEMA site. Once getting through, they could search for word of deaths of loved ones and try to locate surviving friends and family, and register themselves..
The library hired an evacuee from the New Orleans, Linda Taylor, who worked here for two years. Other employees not previously named are Jane DeLee, Marion Murphy, Olivia Dinwiddy, and Sandra Varco.
Mary Bennett Lindsay was appointed as Director early in 2007. She has this to say about her job: “Audubon Regional Library is making progress in serving both parishes, and each branch has a special place in the heart of its town. For 90 years the Library has continued to expand services and bring many people together to provide the variety of information services they need. This month wireless access came to our branches, providing more access to high speed internet. Computer use in the Clinton Branch has increased and offers many new patrons access to new jobs, schools and email. Using state-wide data-bases, library research capabilities, and local access to technical research is exploding. Full-text magazines and newspapers are searchable and usable right here - and also from home!
The Audubon Regional Library has always tried to provide reading material to enjoy, from the latest best sellers to technical information focused on local interests. The Library is working with the schools to develop our children and teen collections. The summer arts programs for children finds the staff coordinating with schools to expose more children to the wonderful artists.
The Clinton Library has a special place in many hearts because of the personal greeting at the door, the pause to visit with old friends, and the chance to find and discuss the latest wonderful book to read--all set in a tiny building that for so long has served to take its users anywhere they
needed to go for information. As we help the Library grow, we must work to preserve and assure the atmosphere of the Library that Clinton has always recognized and valued.”
The library in Clinton has seen changes in the legal authority of women, changes from private to public funding of libraries, and changes to an open admission policy for public facilities, as well as going from a card in the back cover to electronic checkout, from encyclopedias to internet. Our little library, which we often take for granted, has been at the center of many historical events. What will the future hold?
The above information was gathered from documents, news articles, and personal interviews with many persons. This was compiled and written by Anne O’Brien and Evelyn Wilson. Much information was provided by the past directors and employees. Please let us know of employees omitted and/or errors in the document so it can be corrected for the future.
Ms. Boatman witnessed a change of location for the Greensburg Branch library. She was instrumental in overseeing this relocation. The change in location and space allowed library services to be expanded in St. Helena parish. The offering of more computers, greater wifi capabilities and enlarged meeting areas created a better library atmosphere.
In addition, Ms. Boatman also helped to update the library logo as it is known today.
Mrs. Jones first worked for Audubon Regional library as a manager at the Jackson Branch. She worked for 3 years and began working on her MLIS at LSU under the encouragement of Director, Mary Lindsey. She gained her Master's degree in 2010 and promptly went to work as the Librarian at West Feliciana High School until 2017.
At the end of those 7 years, Michele had overseen all library operations, completed the first inventory, taught career classes, research classes and managed the Gifted program for 4 years. One of her biggest accomplishments was starting the first West Feliciana High School reading club called "Club Read." This was a continuance of the "Club Read" organization which was started and already being offered at the middle school under Mrs. Janet Lathrop.
West Feliciana High School's teenage reading club went to convention for 4 years and produced officers for the unique State Association named The Louisiana Teen-Age Librarians Association, LTLA. She oversaw 3 Presidents and 3 Treasurers during her time at West Feliciana High School. https://www.ltlaonline.org/
Mrs. Jones also gained a Baccalaureate in Education for the Gifted student.
She brings her experience in management, education, library science as well as her upbringing in a rural setting to the position of Director.
2017- The tax renewal was up for the library in the fall of 2017. With the help of many members of the community, the library board, the library renewal tax was passed which ensured daily operations of the library at all three locations.
Audubon Regional Library was able to use the courier van for approximately 11 months to deliver services to Head Start programs in both St. Helena and East Feliciana, nursing homes in both parishes, private schools, the Villa and the Veteran's Home in Jackson.
Other changes have included expanding the use of social media via Facebook and the new website which is owned by the library. The library has also seen new and improved technology services, and a new patron category for patrons aged 65 and older which does not charge late fees.