The Third Floor

This portion of the Library's centennial exhibit uses original materials to illustrate the development of NOPL services from a slightly different perspective than was taken on the display panels downstairs. The first four display cases hold items illustrative of local library services for the four quarter-centuries of NOPL's existence. We have selected documents, photographs, and artifacts that relate to most of the services presented topically in the second floor exhibit--technical services, circulation/registration, reference, collections, programming, education, and extension. The low case to the right of these panels holds a small selection of original materials from the City Archives, while the tall case at the far right displays books, photographs, and artifacts illustrating the special commitment that NOPL has made to the children of New Orleans throughout its existence.

This and the two flanking panels display additional items relative to the history of NOPL and its services. At either end of this wall are oil paintings depicting two of the architecturally distinctive buildings that have housed Crescent City libraries over the one-hundred years of our existence. Finally, we will display each week a new framed item from the Library's collections on the easel to the far left. While the second floor exhibit must come down at the end of July, these panels and display cases will remain in place through the end of 1996 (some of the material downstairs will be transferred to this exhibit). If you have access to the Internet's World Wide Web, take a look at the online version of the exhibit; the URL is:


The Lee Circle Library at the very end of its days. The building was demolished in 1959.

This 1932 Times-Picayune story boasted that readership in New Orleans was higher than that in Boston and featured photographs of NOPL staff members at work.

A poster used nationally to celebrate Book Week in 1944. The Library has preserved a nearly complete set of Book Week posters from 1919 to 1979 Several other old Book Week posters are displayed in the tall display case; the one on the right is the oldest in the collection.

This ca. 1949 aerial photo by A.E. Stuart shows the Main Library at Lee Circle. The site is now occupied by the K&B Plaza.

A copy of Curtis and Davis's design for the first floor of the Central Library.

This photograph of the Central Library under construction in February 1958, shows the basement level. Many patrons who enter this building are unaware that beneath the first floor are two full sub-basements, something of an oddity in below-sea-level New Orleans. The fact that neither of these basements has ever flooded, despite the threats of Hurricane Betsy and several catastrophic springtime floods, is a testament to the soundness of Curtis & Davis's design.

Another photo of Central under construction, July 1958. At this point, the prize-winning grillwork was being put into place.

Case 1: 1896-1920

A postcard view of the Main Library at Lee Circle.

Although circulation of library materials for home use has always been one of NOPL's most important services, it was suspended in 1897 in an effort to prevent the spread of the dreaded yellow fever through contaminated books. This page from the minutes of the Library Board of Directors documents the Librarian's decision. A total of 298 New Orleanians perished in the epidemic that year.

This letter from Professor William Woodward of the Newcomb College Art faculty shows that the Library made its facilities available for outside programming from its earliest history.

Before the advent of catalog cards, NOPL used subject catalogs such as this one to provide access to its collections.

This accession record from the year 1913 documents the source of new additions to NOPL's collections, including purchases made at one of our prominent department stores.

Among the magazines received by the Library from the beginning of its history was Scientific American. This issue appeared on the shelf at St. Patrick's Hall just one week after the library opened to the public on January 18, 1897.

This document records the receipt of funds from Andrew Carnegie for the construction of the Dryades branch library. [Herbert Livaudais Donation, in memory of Samuel H. Livaudais, Jr.]

This commemorative candy dish, date unknown, pictures the Lee Circle library building.

This plate was used to produce the commemorative bookplates identifying volumes purchased for NOPL with funds derived from the donation made by the heirs of Simon Hernsheim in 1902.

This list of newspapers received by the New Orleans Public Library is from the institution's annual report for 1912. The view of the proposed Canal branch library also appeared in that publication.

This post card picturing the Mechanics Institute, home to the Fisk Library (one of NOPL's predecessor institutions) is from the Louisiana Division's extensive collection of picture post cards. The cards depicting the Lee Circle library shown throughout this exhibit are from the same collection.

Case 2: 1921-1945

A group of children in front of NOPL's first bookmobile, borrowed from the Louisiana Library Commission in 1940.

NOPL took to the airwaves in the Summer of 1939, with its first series of radio shows, weekly fifteen minute broadcasts given by staff members, students of dramatic schools, and members of little theatre groups promoting library services and facilities. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the Library continued to host a variety of radio shows, which included Saturday morning story hours, a program on poetry, book reviews, and a discussion program about books and library activities. The occasion of this broadcast by Library staff and board members is unidentified but probably took place during the 1940s.

In 1940, Fannie Levy Mayer bequeathed $250,000 to the Library in memory of her husband Norman Mayer. Plans to spend the Mayer funds to erect two new branches were delayed by the onset of World War II, but Mrs. Mayer's gift eventually built the Gentilly Branch, which opened on March 28, 1949, and the Broadmoor Branch, dedicated on April 4, 1954. Shown here is the ordinance authorizing that the Mayer bequest be invested until after the war.

A sample of cards from several indexes to local sources created by staff of the Adult Services department during the 1930s and 1940s, still in use today in the Louisiana Division. Shown here are cards from the indexes to Architectural Art and Its Allies and the Roosevelt Review, the Plantations Index, the Obituary and Biography Index and the News Index. Some of these indexes (and others not represented here) began as WPA projects and were later continued by Library staff. These indexes, all of them representing one-of-a-kind resources unique to NOPL, are invaluable sources which have not outlived their usefulness, even in the electronic age.

Throughout the 1920s, Carrollton residents and Library officials lobbied the City to build a facility in the Carrollton neighborhood. In 1928, the Council appropriated $20,000 for the purchase of a lot in the area, but further funding to construct the branch was not forthcoming. Later that year, brothers James, Ralph, and John Nix donated a lot at the corner of Carrollton Avenue and Willow Street in memory of their parents, freeing the $20,000 for use in building the branch. The Nix Branch, NOPL's sixth facility, opened to the public on December 1, 1930. Shown here are a newspaper clipping from the Morning Tribune reporting the Commission Council's authorization that bids be accepted to build the branch and a letter from Commissioner of Public Property John Klorer to Mayor Walmsley notifying him that legalities regarding the transfer of the Nix property to the City had been completed.

Two of the hundreds of book lists developed by Library staff in the last 100 years

Photographs depicting Library "Hands at Work," ca. 1930s.

During World War II, normal library services continued uninterrupted, while the Library joined in the war effort on several fronts. In 1942, NOPL was asked by the United States Office of Education and the Office of War Information, in cooperation with the War and Navy Departments, to become a War Information Center. In this role, NOPL equipped itself to answer questions about the war and civilian defense and served as New Orleans' clearing house for official information on a national and local scale. The Library also established loan collections at the N.O. Air Depot and the Naval Reserve Training Station. In addition, NOPL staff members contributed much time and effort to the Victory Book Campaign, a nation-wide effort to collect books for servicemen and women, conducted in 1942 and 1943. Shown here are a poster and several flyers used in to advertise the campaign as well as a letter from librarian Beth Skoog to NOPL staff member Margaret Ruckert, who served as the Victory Book Campaign's publicity director, thanking her for the books received at the Camp Claiborne Library.

This 1934 letter to Mayor Walmsley from City Librarian E.A. Parsons protests a threatened budget cut of $20,000. Page two, not visible here, describes the Library's accomplishments despite its inadequate funding.

A plaque from one of the benches which once stood in front of the Central Library. Donated by Library Board Chairman Rosa Keller, the benches bore the names of those who chaired the Library's Board of Directors throughout its history.

A fine calculator used at the circulation desk.

Printer's plate used to create the Chase cartoon reproduced on the "Finances" panel in the second-floor portion of this exhibit. The cartoon originally appeared in the New Orleans Item on April 3, 1946 and was reprinted in the Library's 1946 annual report.

This letter from City Librarian E.A. Parsons thanks Mayor Walmsley for the donation of a book given to him by the citizens of Genoa, Italy. Alas, this volume has not survived.

The LaHache Music Library was established in 1950 through an endowment by Theodore V. Martinez in memory of his grandfather, composer Theodore Von LaHache. The endowment funded the purchase of classical recordings and sheet music. Originally housed at the Latter Branch, the LaHache collection (along with the Souchon Folk and Jazz Collection) became the core around which the Art and Music Department was built at the new Central Library. Shown here is one of hundreds of pieces of sheet music from the LaHache Music Library still in NOPL's collections.

News clipping from August 6, 1948 announcing Mr. and Mrs. Harry Latter's donation of the former Williams mansion on St. Charles Avenue for use as a library.

An article in the Transit Rider's Digest, April 4, 1949, describes NOPL's information services, its increased circulation and registration figures, and its never-ending budget problems. The Library holds a complete bound set of the Rider's Digest; an index to this journal, created by Library staff, is also available.

In 1952, Martha Gasquet Westfeldt donated $1000, along with her personal collection of art books and more than forty pieces of Persian and Chinese porcelain and ceramics, for the purpose of establishing an art library at NOPL. The Westfeldt gift went toward the purchase of circulating art prints. Shown here is a list of initial purchases for the Westfeldt collection.

New Orleans Public Library's facilities were segregated in 1954 shortly after the Supreme Court's historic Brown vs. Board of Education decision. This opinion by the City Attorney advising that the Brown decision would make continued segregation illegal paved the way for the Board's vote to open the Library's facilities to New Orleans citizens of every race.

Branch Nine, the Library's second--and last--segregated facility, opened in 1946 at 1902 St. Bernard Avenue. The temporary facility was constructed from two prefabricated huts sold to the Library Board for $302.40 by the War Assets Administration. Branch Nine was replaced in 1954 by the Nora Navra Branch.

Case 3: 1946-1970

Photograph of the time capsule ceremony. Included in the photograph are (from left), Councilmen Victor Schiro, Jimmy Fitzmorris and Glen Clasen, and (kneeling, center) City Librarian John Hall Jacobs. The man at Jacobs' left may be Mayor Chep Morrison.

The long flight of marble steps leading to the entrance of the Lee Circle Library. These steps were a source of much complaint from patrons who found the long climb tiring or even dangerous. The Library administration used the steps as one of its arguments (along with the Lee Circle Library's inconvenient location, too far from the Canal Street hub, and its relatively small size and antiquated arrangement) for the need to build a new Main Library in the Central Business District.

In December 1955 the citizens of New Orleans voted three to one in favor of a bond issue providing $2,650,000 for a new downtown Main Library. The architectural firm of Curtis and Davis was selected to design the building, and the ground breaking ceremonies were held on November 30, 1956.

Invitation to the placing of a time capsule in the new Central Library, May 4, 1958. A new time capsule was sealed on April 19, 1996 during the Library's celebration of its centennial.

The January 1957 issue of Progressive Architecture awarded the new library its first place design prize for public use buildings. The Curtis and Davis design also won awards for its innovative iron grillwork, inspired by French Quarter ironwork and the functional need to screen damaging sunlight from the primarily glass building.

Invitation to the dedication of the new Main Library, November 22, 1959.

A book list developed in September, 1964.

A list of books added to the collection in 1959.

Great Books Discussion groups, which met at a number of Library branches, were first launched in the late 1940s and continued to be popular well into the 1960s. Here a discussion group meets in the Central Library auditorium.

Case 4: 1971-1996

A jazz band entertained customers as they queued up for NOPL's first book sale in 1974.

Cate Dixon, former head of the Technical Services Department, at the console of NOPL's first automated catalog, ALIS. For the personification of ALIS, see the framed sign hanging behind this display case.

Without NOPL's maintenance and custodial workers, library service would very likely grind to a halt. They keep the buildings in working order and perform all sorts of vital behind-the-scenes activities. This photograph shows long-time staff member Joseph Consonery repairing a library chair outside the Latter branch.

In its seemingly never-ending quest for additional sources of funding, the Library administration decided in 1974 to inaugurate the annual NOPL book sale. These two photographs testify to the immediate success of the concept.

City appropriations for library services began to decline in the latter half of the 1970s and NOPL had to compete with other city agencies for scarce dollars. Many satisfied users rallied to the library cause with letters of support to the City Council such as this one from film-maker Stevenson Palfi in 1977.

In addition to in-house exhibits such as this one, NOPL has played host to numerous traveling exhibitions sponsored by the American Library Association and other national organizations. These three items from 1987 document the New Orleans presentation of "Censorship and Libraries," a production organized by the New York Public Library with support from the ALA and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Local funding for this and many other traveling shows has been provided by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library, and other generous benefactors.

New Orleans hosted the annual convention of the American Library Association in 1988. In conjunction with that event, NOPL received a visit from a delegation of Russian librarians. Our guests left behind a gift of books, sound recordings, and this wonderful set of hand-painted nested dolls. Library collections grow in many interesting ways!

This informational booklet from DataPhase, the vendor of NOPL's ALIS computer system, provides a reminder of how we first entered the world of library automation back in the early 1980s.

In addition to its in-house Dynix automated catalog, NOPL also offers a variety of CD-ROM products to enhance reference services. This example (a damaged disk) is one of several dozen CDs making up the Family Search database of genealogical resources maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints. Family Search is available in the Louisiana Division to in-house users at no charge.

NOPL's most recent venture into automated access is provided through NUTRIAS, our site on the Internet's World Wide Web. This page is a printout from the "Archival Inventories" section of NUTRIAS as it appears to users of the Netscape Navigator 2.0 web browser. Text-only access, through the lynx browser, is available at selected public access terminals here and at all NOPL branches.

Before the advent of computers, NOPL and other libraries used the best technology available to make a variety of routine procedures as efficient and speedy as possible. This sorting wand was a standard tool at circulation desks everywhere; it made it possible for staff to sort the date-stamped cards removed from books returned from circulation. Cards missing from their proper numerical location after sorting provided a means for identifying overdue or missing books.

Of all the programs sponsored by NOPL over its one-hundred years of operation probably none was as ambitious as the Jambalaya program in the late 1970s. Funded by a large grant from the NEH (NOPL was one of only three public libraries to receive such funding), Jambalaya featured a four-year series of lectures, performances, and other events designed to investigate the history and culture of New Orleans and the surrounding area. Thousands of local citizens participated in the Jambalaya activities as they happened between 1977 and 1980. We hope that many more will benefit from the splendid tape recordings, such as the three shown here, made during the actual events. The Jambalaya Index provides detailed descriptions of the various programs represented on the recordings. Ask at the Louisiana reference desk for information on the index and recordings.

This document records the receipt of funds from Andrew Carnegie for the construction of the Dryades branch library. [Herbert Livaudais Donation, in memory of Samuel H. Livaudais, Jr.]

In addition to its in-house Dynix automated catalog, NOPL also offers a variety of CD-ROM products to enhance reference services. This example (a damaged disk) is one of several dozen CDs making up the Family Search database of genealogical resources maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints. Family Search is available in the Louisiana Division to in-house users at no charge.

Two informational flyers describing the Library's need for a permanent funding source. Passage of the millage in 1986 put NOPL on a solid financial footing for the first time in its history. Unfortunately, however, millage revenues have not increased at the same rate as library expenses have and NOPL once again is suffering from budgetary problems.

Case 5: City Archives

Three generations of local transportation are shown in use all at the same time in this photograph showing North Peters St., ca. 1930. This image came to the Archives from the Department of Utilities.

The City Archives began as the collection of documents created by the Cabildo, the local governing body during the period of Spanish rule in Louisiana. Displayed here is the first page of the Acts and Deliberations of the Cabildo on which is recorded Governor Alejandro O'Reilly's assumption of control on August 18, 1769. The original manuscripts have been microfilmed and are available for use in the Louisiana Division (English translations also are available, as are typewritten Spanish transcriptions).

This photograph from the New Orleans Fire Department documents firefighters' efforts to control a fire on Dauphine St. in 1968.

The interior of the Canal Street Liquor Co. store at 2223 Canal, probably in the early 1950s. The photo is from the records of the New Orleans Police Department.

The New Orleans Recreation Department's Traveling Theatre in performance at an unidentified location during the summer of 1957.

This page from the New Orleans Police Department's 1918 record of homicides documents one of a series of sensational crimes known collectively as the "Axeman Murders." The homicide records for the period 1899-1947 are available on microfilm to interested researchers. For more on the Axeman Murders, see our microfilms of local newspapers as well as the descriptions published in Robert Tallant's Ready to Hang and the WPA compilation Gumbo Ya-Ya.

The Civil Courts Collection includes records of Orleans Parish naturalization records from the early 1800s through 1906. This certificate from the Parish Court in 1835 not only documents Eugene Dejoncieres' admission to citizenship, it also shows that he arrived in the U.S. at the port of New York and found his way to the Crescent City some time during the next three years. The naturalization records, along with most other genealogically significant civil court records, are available on microfilm in the Louisiana Division.

This 1894 annual report of the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital includes a view of the original clinic building at the corner of Tulane Avenue and Elk Place. That structure was replaced by the present building in 1921. The EEN&T facility moved uptown to Napoleon Avenue in the late 1980s. The old building is scheduled for demolition later this year.. We have annual reports for the years 1893 through 1929.

The City Archives includes voter registration records for New Orleans from the 1890s through the 1970s. Most of these records are available on microfilm. Displayed here is the 1939 registration card for Mayor Robert Maestri, who gave his occupation as "Real Estate" despite the fact that he had occupied the mayor's office since 1936.

This sheet from the 1882 tax assessment book for the city's Fifth Assessment District records the owners of the properties in the square in which this library building is now located (Basin St. is now Loyola Ave., Common St. is now Tulane Ave., Franklin St. no longer exists in this immediate vicinity. The Archives holds tax assessment and/or tax bill records (which also indicate assessed values) for the period 1836-1993.

1896 marked not only the beginning of NOPL, but it also was the year in which the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the momentous Plessy vs. Ferguson decision. This minute book from Section A of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court records what happened after the case was sent back to the lower court for final disposition. The history of the local Plessy case is interestingly entwined with that of the New Orleans Public Library. Judge Ferguson heard the original matter in his courtroom in St. Patrick's Hall on Lafayette Square in 1892. The final disposition of the case, as recorded in the item at hand, took place one week before the Library's opening in the new Criminal Courthouse at the corner of Basin and Common, site of the present Main Library.

The City Archives holds several hundred original maps, plans, and surveys produced by the City Surveyor and his successor the City Engineer. This 1827 plan by Joseph Pilie identifies city-owned property on Tchoupitoulas St. near Canal. Note that the levee is just across New Levee (now South Peters) St. That portion of the levee is now, of course, the site of the unfinished casino project.

Case 6: Childrens' Services

Irene Elliott Benson. The Expedition of the Jimmy-John Twins. New York, 1911.

The books displayed here all are from the Library's Juvenile Historical Collection.

Frances Brown. Granny's Wonderful Chair. New York, 1891.

Triplets: Comprising the Baby's Opera, the Baby's Bouquet, and the Baby's Own Aesop. Illustrated by Walter Crane; printed by Edmund Evans. London, 1899.

Louisa May Alcott. Under the Lilacs. Boston, 1891.

Mary D. Brine. The Doings of a Dear Little Couple. New York , n.d.

Ben Derrick's Lesson. Philadelphia, 1884.

Thomas Bingley. Stories Illustrative of the Instinct of Animals, Their Characters, and Habits. New York, 1845.

The two books by Bingley were originally part of the collection of the Second Municipality Public School Library, or the "City Library," which was merged with the Fisk Collection in 1896 to create the New Orleans Public Library.

Thomas Bingley. Stories About Dogs Illustrative of Their Instinct, Sagacity and Fidelity. New York, n.d.

The seashells and arrowheads in this case were once on display in the Children's Department and are now preserved in the City Archives.

The smaller dolls in this display case, dressed in the costumes of different lands, were originally part of the Haspell Doll Collection, donated to the Library by the Haspell family in 1941. The Annual Report for that year says proudly, "This group of 500 dolls from practically every nation is perhaps the finest in the South. Its value to students of geography and costume has been outstanding." Only a few of the Haspell dolls, obviously well used by the children of New Orleans, have survived the years.

These three dolls are part of a set of twenty-nine dolls depicting local, historical and international characters made by the Toy Renovation Project of the WPA and donated to the juvenile patrons of the Library in 1939. Replicas of dolls made for the World's Fair at New York, the collection was later refurbished, and those depicting New Orleans characters were on display for a number of years in the Louisiana Division.

A stereograph viewer once used in the Children's Department.

The 1966 theme for the Summer Reading Club was the 'Bookaneers,' and these doubloon-like "Pieces of Eight" were given as awards to children who completed eight books during the program.