Page 5 - OCT RAPNEWS 2017
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THE RAPIDES PARISH LIBRARY IN THE WAR YEARS

In November of this year, the Rapides Parish Library will celebrate its 75th
anniversary of service to the community. Along the way, the library has brought
value, impact and services to cities, towns and villages across Rapides Parish and
will continue to promote lifelong learning, enhanced quality of life, and literacy
through print, audiovisual and electronic resources. We will continue to ensure that
all our citizens receive maximum value from available informational, educational,
cultural and recreational resources.

"No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man's eternal
fight against tyranny. In this war, we know, books are weapons."

                                                                          --- Franklin Roosevelt

In this next installment of the history of the Rapides Parish Library, we enter the war
years. Central Louisiana was the host to thousands of service men and women with
their families as the United States entered the Second World War on December 8,
1941. Training camps opened in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida offering the perfect tropical and
sub-tropical temperatures to train and condition service men and women for deployment to the Pacific. There was a high
demand for just about everything, and the libraries in Rapides Parish in particular; were also faced with the demand for
reading and research materials. Both the Alexandria Public Library and the parish-wide Louisiana Library Commission
opened their doors to servicemen and their families coming to the area. Both libraries were hard-pressed to keep reading
materials in their collections for this growing population. The Work Project Administration or WPA came to their aid and
provided 12,896 books and four WPA workers. The population of the central Louisiana area was growing so rapidly that
even with the additional books and workers, it would prove difficult to keep up with the demand. In response to fulfill this
requirement, additional branches opened to help serve the growing communities.

Libraries Rally Together!
In March of 1942 the town of Tioga opened a branch to serve both military and non-military attached personnel and their
families that settled in the area. In April, a library branch was opened on the Camp Beauregard army training base in
Pineville and was staffed by an army officer. In Alexandria, England Air Force Base also had a branch to serve the
on-base personnel and their families. In June of 1942 the George Washington Carver branch, located on Casson Street
in Alexandria, was the first African-American neighborhood library in the parish. The Bolton Avenue United Service
Organization (USO) Community Center opened a library branch providing books and magazines along with
entertainment and other programs to members of the United States Armed Forces and their families.

Let’s Put It to The Vote!
Library circulation and patrons continued to grow and the support for a parish-wide library was overwhelming. The
Rapides Parish Police Jury was bombarded with telephone calls and letters to take control from the Louisiana Library
Commission for the benefit and betterment of all the people of Rapides Parish. On September 4, 1942, the Rapides
Parish Police Jury met to discuss taking over full authority of the library system from the Louisiana Library Commission.
Four days later, they voted to ask for a 1 mill tax. An all-out-no-holds-barred 38-day campaign was waged door to door,
in homes, businesses, in local newspapers, and radio. Volunteers supporting the tax came together and pounded the
pavement asking for support of a 1 mill tax for 5 years to support the library.

Continued on page 10

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