History of the Tuscaloosa Public Library through 1945

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History of the Tuscaloosa Public Library through 1945


Tuscaloosa Public Library
Public libraries


An account of the history of the Tuscaloosa Public Library by Thomas Clinton that was written in 1945.


Thomas Clinton


Tuscaloosa Public Library




Tuscaloosa Public Library






Tuscaloosa (AL)


1945 Thomas Clinton Tuscaloosa County Library History

In 1921, in order to establish a county library, Mrs. Alston Fitts, Mrs. Washington Moody, Mrs. Edgar Clarkson, Mrs. George J. Davis, and Miss Clara Verner appeared before the County Board of Revenue under Judge Brandon and secured the promise of a maintainance fund of $25.00 monthly, and the use of a room in the basement of the court house, provided there were 400 books on the shelves at the opening. The women of the Up-To-Date Club had the walls decorated, furnished the shelves, and members of the club acted librarian for the first two years. A collection of books previously housed at the Chamber of Commerce was moved to the library, and later Miss Barnes served as the first paid librarian until she was succeeded by Mrs. Pou in 1922.

    During 1926 through the influence and work of Mrs. Richard Prowell, representing all the clubs of the county, the county bought the old Searcy home on Greensboro Avenue and moved the library there. Several local clubs besides the Up-To-Date responded to the early needs of the library; some of these were the Quaker Club, Pilots, Kiwanians, Civitans, University Women’s Club, Twentieth Century Club, Sisterhood, and the Business and Professional Women’s Club.

   When Mrs. Pou became librarian there were about 500 books on the shelves with a daily circulation of 35 to 40 books. She served until ill health forced her to resign on September 20, 1941.

   The following women have served as librarian since Mrs. Pou: Mrs. Richard Bruck, Sept.-Dec., 1941; Mrs. Vivian M. Lawson, Dec., 1941-June 1942; Miss Louise Williams, June-August, 1942; Miss Mary Evelyn Glass, Sept., 1942-May, 1943; Mrs. Mary Lillie Blackmarr, June-August 1943; Miss Mary Guy, Sept.-Dec., 1943; Miss Winona Nicholson, Jan.-June, 1944; Miss Mary Guy, July-August, 1944; Miss. Inez Sutton, Sept., 1944----

   In addition to the above personnel, aid was obtained from 1945 through 1947 through the National Youth Administration Projects Administration. This aid was in the form of assistants who did clerical work. Binding facilities were also available.
The library is set up as provided by the Alabama Code:

“Sec. 285 (1545) Libraries established by counties. The court of county commissioners, the board of revenue, or other governing bodies of the counties of this state, and municipalities, through their governing bodies, may establish and maintain or aid in establishing and maintaining free public libraries for the use of citizens of the respective counties, or municipalities, either separately or in connection with public schools, and to that end may accept gifts, donations, and bequests of land, buildings or money thereof, and may make appropriations from the county or municipal treasury in support thereof in such sums as they deem proper. (1920, p. 145; 1939, 0350)

“Sec. 286 (1545) Library Board. The government and supervision of such libraries shall be vested in a library board consisting of five members who shall be appointed by the governing body of the county or municipality. The terms of membership on the library board as first appointed for one member shall be for one year; for the second member shall be for two years; for the third member shall be for three years; and for the remaining two members the terms shall be for four years; after the first term, all appointments shall be four years. The governing body shall fill all vacancies including expired and unexpired terms. Members of the library board shall serve with compensation. (1919, pg 1124; 1939, 0.351)

“Sec. 287. (1547) Powers and duties of library board The library board so created shall have full power and authority to control the expenditure of all funds received or appropriated for such libraries; to erect or rent buildings, to cost not in excess of the funds available to it; to purchase books and equipment; to provide a system of library service; to be made easily available to all citizens of the county municipality through central library, branches, stations, book truck service, or other appropriate means, to elect a librarian and other employees, and otherwise have full authority and power to manage and control the said library in order to carry out the full intent and purpose of this article; and a careful and complete record and set of books shall be kept by the library board, showing the proceedings of their several meetings and the receipts and disbursements in deal of all funds. In counties where a city having a population of not less than sixty-five thousand already maintains a free public library, a separate county library board need not be appointed, the county libraries and the appropriations authorized shall be administered by the governing board of such free public library on such terms as may be agreed upon between the above county authorities and the said governing board. (1930, p. 351).

Sec. 288. (1545). Consolidation and joint library service. Any rural town or village school library, secured or provided under the preceding article may, on application of the district library board, to the county library board, affiliate such library with the county library, or with the free public library administration the school library, in accordance with rules fixed by the county library board or the free public library board. In lieu of establishing or maintaining free public libraries exclusively for a single county or municipality in the manner here in before provided, the library board of any county or municipality, free public library may contract, in behalf of the political unit represented by such local library board, to and with the library board of other political unit, or governmental agency or instrumentality, with respect to the establishment or maintenance of joint library service upon such terms as may be agreed upon by the several contracting parties. Where there is no existing public library, the power thus to contract shall vest in the governing body of the county or municipality. Included in the power conferred is the determination of basic and personnel of representation of the local political units on the join library board administering the joint library service established hereunder. Such board when appointed, shall have the powers and duties hereinbefore granted to county or municipality library boards. County and municipal library boards or joint library boards shall have the power to cooperate with all state and federal agencies and institutions in furtherance of the purpose of this article, and all municipal, county and joint library boards shall from time to time submit such records and reports as may be required by the public library service division, provided, however, that nothing in this section shall be construed as to infringe upon any municipal charter provisions governing the administration of existing free public libraries. (1919, p. 1124; 1030. P. 352)

Sec. 289 (154) Department of archives and history; duties as to. The department of archives and history shall encourage the establishment of such libraries, and shall afford free advice and counsel on organization, buildings, staff, book purchases, coordination and affiliation of school and other libraries, and on such other subjects as may arise in connection with the establishment and maintenance of such libraries, and such county libraries, shall on request, make such regular and special reports as to the department as may be required. (1919. P. 1124.)”

The present library building, which houses the County Board of Education on the second floor, is insured for $13,000. The books are not insured

Present Status

The library is set up to offer county-wide service. This service is offered only insofar as people are able to come directly to the library. In February, 1945, a small collection of books was placed in Brookwood but it is too early yet to measure results. Other library facilities are available in the county but they are limited in their scope. The University library is available to citizens of the state but cannot hope to furnish facilities for everyone, although some townspeople borrow books. Stillman Institute has a library but its contents are necessarily limited by lack of money and its curricula. The only other library facilities available to people in the county are those of the city and county schools. Again, these are for limited to school needs. There remains only one source of books for the majority of the people in the county, the Tuscaloosa County Library.

There is no service to Negroes through the county library. The only Negro service in the county is from Stillman Institue and the public school system. This does not reach a majority of adult Negroes.

The present staff consists of one semi-professional librarian and one clerical assistant who has practical experience.

The library has about 13,000 books. This collection is very poor in quality, the books having been obtained largely as gifts. This has left little chance for wise selection. As a result, the library collection is predominately fiction and has little balance as far as other subjects are concerned. In late years, gifts of money have given the librarian more opportunities to choose book titles.

Large numbers of books are in dire need of rebinding or replacements. Little money apparently has been spent to keep them in good condition.

The present finances are wholly inadequate. The only recurring appropriations are $1200.00 per year from the City Commission and $1020.00 from the County Board of Revenue. This is just enough to pay salaries. The County Board of Revenue also pays for the upkeep of the building and for supplies and equipment. The only other direct income is the money collected from fines, rental books, and the gifts of local clubs and societies. There is no direct appropriation for books. A financial statement for 1944 is attached.

Certain matching appropriations for books can be obtained from the Public Library Service Division of the State Department of Archives and History in Montgomery. This division will match each dollar spent for books by the local library. This [unreadable…..] from Montgomery in the library equal to the amount spent by the Local Library. For example, if the county library here spends $500 for books, the Public Library Service Division will permanently loan the county library $500.00 worth of books from its own collection. These books can be selected by the local librarians.

The building in which the library is now housed is nearing its capacity. It will, at present, hold 14,000-15,000 books. The library now has over 13,000 volumes.

The library is now open 44 hours per week. The schedule is 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. Monday through Saturday with the exception of being closed at 1 P.M. on Thursday.

The most pressing need is an immediate appropriation from the City Commission or the County Board of Revenue, or both, for the purchase of books. The only funds available at present are from rentals, fines, club gifts, and the state matching funds described above. By comparison with other cities of equal seize in the United States, the amount available for books is decidedly small. The library should have, and could wisely spend, a minimum of $1,000 during the remainder of the fiscal year.

The Future

The county library has been starved since its beginning and decidedly needs a period in which to grow. It is a foregone conclusion that adequate finances are necessary for this growth. This means that the city and county must greatly increase their appropriations to the library. The American Library Association has set a standard of $1 per capita of being necessary for adequate public library service. This is undoubtedly out of the question for Tuscaloosa County but many libraries serving equal populations run far beyond this figure. An appropriation for Tuscaloosa County, based on this figure, would be about $70,000 for county-wide library service.

The in following paragraphs an attempt will be made to outline the future needs of the county library. All of these needs are based on the assumption that the library is to offer county-wide service. The word future will be used in its broadest sense since some of the needs already exist and some will not need to be met for a few years.

1. Finance. At present the library appropriations should be at least $15,000-20,000 per year. This would provide somewhat better service to the people of the county than is now offered. For adequate service in the future, as the library grows, this should be increased in as much as $30,000-50,000 annually.
2. Service. The library needs to greatly expand its service. This means setting up stations or branches throughout the county. Collections of books should be available in many communities such as Brookwood, Abernant, Gorgas, Peterson, etc. To accomplish this satisfactorily a bookmobile is necessary. There is a truck with special shelves which would carry books from Tuscaloosa to the stations. These stations can be maintained in community centers, schools, stores, churches and other accessible places. Library service should be available to Negroes. If segregation is necessary, a special room and entrance could be provided in the county library and special provisions made for the stations.
3. Building. The present quarters will soon be too small unless extra shelves are installed. More shelving space could be obtained by discarding many useless books now in the library. However if several hundred books are added each year, as should be the case, the present quarters will be inadequate in three to five years. A new library building is a very definite need. Plans should be made now for financing this after the war.
4. Staff. The present staff is inadequate to render the best service to the county. When county-wide service is expanded there should be at least two, preferably three or four trained librarians. A large part of the time of one person will be necessary to operate the bookmobile. There should be another person to devote full time to a children’s room. At least one or two librarians will be needed to operate the main section of the library.
5. Hours. The library is now open 44 hours per week. In addition, it should be open at least three evenings a week and a few hours on Sunday.
6. Reading Materials. The present book collection needs a thorough weeding out to discard a large number of worthless books. Many books are needed to build up subject fields. The collection consists now almost entirely of fiction and “light reading.” Many standard [unreadable] and newspaper is needed.
7. Publicity. The head librarian should have an interest in making the library known to the people of the county. She should be able to give book reviews to clubs. The Tuscaloosa News should be requested to devote a weekly or semi-weekly column to new books acquired and to library news. Perhaps a weekly book talk could be arranged with WJRD.

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