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Our library began in 1906 as a subscription library for Brookhaven. Dues were $2 per year. On September 4, 1906, there were 60 members. The library was housed in rooms above Brookhaven Bank. Furniture was provided by a combined effort of many Brookhaven clubs. The first volunteer librarian was Mrs. F.H. Hartman. In 1909, she was succeeded by Mrs. M. Lewenthal.
When the city hall was built in 1910, a large room and office were included for the library where the chamber director’s office and board room now are. The narrow evenly spaced windows in the board room were designed to fit between the rows of bookshelves.
In 1916, Miss Laurie Penn was hired as the first paid librarian of the Brookhaven library. She was described as “an indefatigable worker.” The newspaper reported, “A hundred and thirty-one new volumes of books were added to the Brookhaven Public Library during the last year… This brings the total number up to 1,825. The Library…is one of the best balanced of its size in Mississippi and many transient visitors have taken advantage of it to spend the hours between trains. A sign inviting them to make use of the Library is posted in the depot waiting room.” (John Paul Smith, Brookhaven and Lincoln County 1916 through 1919, 2002)
In 1924, Miss Ethel Hardy became Librarian and introduced Story Hour to the children of Brookhaven. She remained with the library until her health failed in the late 1940’s, She was replaced with Mrs. Lena M. Frizell, who taught bookbinding to the local girl scouts.
The initial meeting of the Lincoln County Public Library was held on October 30, 1948, signaling the change from a private subscription library to a tax supported public library. Initial board members were Mrs. Nellie Perkins, Mrs. Roy King, W.L. White, Mrs. W.B. Hobbs, and Mrs. J.F. Vernon.
Mrs. Charles Armstrong served briefly as librarian in1951. In 1952, Miss Elenora Gralow was employed part-time as, “the first trained librarian of the Lincoln County Library.” She served full time from 1952 until 1956. Miss Gralow promoted bookmobile service and opened the Gulledage library. In October 1953, a demonstration library was established in Lawrence County.
Miss Gralow left Brookhaven for the Natchez library where she served many years until her retirement.
Miss Gralow was followed by Mrs. Iola Magee from Monticello. In June of 1956, Lincoln and Lawrence Counties formed the Lincoln Lawrence Regional Library with Mrs. Magee as the first director.
Things moved fast under Mrs. Magee’s leadership. The library quarters in city hall were renovated in 1957. The library in Lawrence County was improved and updated in 1958. Mrs. Magee moved the Gulledage Library to new improved quarters in 1961 and renamed it the Redmond Library. She acquired a new bookmobile in 1962.
In October 1962, a “demonstration library” was set up in Meadville, the county seat of Franklin County. There already was a library established in Bude in July 1961 which joined the demonstration project. Franklin County was added to the region permanently in 1964 with library quarters in the new Meadville Town Hall and the Bude Post Office. The name of the library became the Lincoln Lawrence Franklin Regional Library.
In 1964, planning began for the new Lincoln County Library Building to serve as regional headquarters. This major undertaking was completed in 1965-66.
Following the retirement of Mrs. Magee, Mrs. Sharman B. Smith became Director. During Mrs. Smith’s tenure, construction of a new mezzanine was begun to the building to house the regional library administration. Mrs. Smith left the regional library for the Mississippi Library Commission, eventually becoming State Librarian of first Iowa and then Mississippi. The office wing was completed by Mrs. Pricilla Johansen. Mrs. Johansen left Brookhaven for a position in Texas.
Henry Ledet was hired at the library in 1978 and became Director when Mrs. Johansen left. During his early years, a new genealogy room was added to house that swiftly growing collection. The library became one of the first libraries in Mississippi to have a computer, first as an experiment, then for patrons to explore.
From the formation of the regional system until 1981, New Hebron was served by the library bookmobile. In 1981, a small house trailer was brought in to provide a physical library for the community. Mrs. Henry Riley and the New Hebron Women’s Club worked very hard to obtain library service for the community and to improve services. In 1989, a new brick library was built for the town where full library services continue to be available.
In the later 1990’s, the Lincoln County Public Library had seriously outgrown its building. No one wanted to see the library leave its perfect location in Downtown Brookhaven and no one wanted to destroy the integrity of the mid-century design. Earnest planning was begun to provide a major addition sensitive to both the library’s needs and the existing building design. A number of architects were invited to submit proposals from which Burris+Wagnon was chosen. Their design combined aesthetic harmony with the existing building with maximum usable space. The new space was completed in 2001.
Library service evolved slowly in the first half of the 20th century. since the founding of the Brookhaven Library in 1906 until the arrival of the computer, libraries depended primarily on paper documents of various forms. Improvement can primarily in the form of increased collections and expanded service. While many librarians were resistant to the changes in technology during the second half of the century, the library remained in the forefront of libraries in Mississippi adapting and improving in innovative ways.
While things seemed to change fast in the second half of the 20th century, the beginning of the 21st has ushered in change an order of magnitude greater. The computer was a major disruption of traditional library service, changing the way library collections wwere stored and retrieved into new and more accessible formats. But the greatest and most profound change has been the arrival of the Internet and the access to almost unlimited resources it provides.
While Internet access provides many homes with more information than any major research library could provide 20 years ago, libraries are still vitally needed to structure content. When everything is available someone must distinguish between accurate and biased or even just-plain-incorrect information. Working with library vetted information is the clearest path to obtaining accurate and useful knowledge.
In addition, the library provides access to this information for many people who do not have access in their homes. Lincoln County has 30 public access computers, most of which are in use whenever the library is open. The library also has free wifi available for patrons to use with their own equipment. The library provides hundreds of databases including subscription services and locally produce information. The library provides free electronic books and magazines available to anyone with a smartphone, tablet, computer or other device.
The library offers cultural programming including regular art exhibits, book discussions, and extensive children’s programming. We provide free coffee each weekday morning for visitors who enjoy reading newspapers, magazines and other library materials with a cup of coffee. The newly remodeled children’s room includes newly revised activities and materials, keeping the library fresh and inviting for children and their parents and grandparents.
In 2016, the library added a teen area to serve older children who tend to avoid the library, anticipating that the special area and special programming planned for it will encourage our young people to value learning and knowledge.
It is a real challenge to maintain all of the services the library has traditionally provided as well as serve the quickly growing needs of the future. The library is very careful not to lose its roots as it grows.
As fast as change has come during the last ten years, it will continue to come into the future. Look for many new changes at the library in the future while the library remains true to its mission to provide for the intellectual needs of the community.