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History of the Ouachita Parish Public Library
Known today as one of the best libraries in the state of Louisiana, Ouachita Parish Public Library began modestly in a one-room building with a budget of $50.00 per month. It has evolved into a 10-branch system with a $8 million budget. Such phenomenal growth in the library's over 100 years required hard work and much diligence by the staff of the library.

The first mention of a library in Monroe was in late 1884. A letter to the editor of the Monroe Bulletin (August 27, 1884) from Mr. Ralph H. Prosser relates the progress of the Public Library Association:

"In the middle of last April, a meeting of the Board of Directors was held at the office of Messrs. Millsaps & Sholars, Mr. Franklin Garrett presided. At this meeting, among other committees, one was appointed, of which I was chairman, to solicit contributions for repairs of the building and the necessary preparation of it for books."

It was reported that $125 had been raised in subscriptions, of which $25 was paid to Judge Gunby for furniture. It was also reported that $200 was needed to buy books, repair the building and buy shelves. We can find no more mention of the library until 1913.

In early 1913, the Twentieth Century Book Club issued invitations to various clubs and organizations to meet for the "purpose of obtaining a public library." An association was formed to study the matter and on May 12, 1913, the Library Association met with a large number present. The main accomplishment of this meeting was to establish the fact that a library was needed and desired by the citizens of Monroe. No records of further action by this particular association have been found.

Judge A. A. Gunby was so interested in the library movement that he searched the archives of the City in 1915, and found the will of Mrs. Louise L. McGuire, who had bequeathed to Monroe a little one-room building on Wood Street, opposite the Court House, with the "hope" that it would someday be used for a library. The building had been used for storage and to store coal, so it needed lots of repairs. Charter memberships were solicited and the building was repaired. A book shower was held and citizens were asked to bring books or money for the new library. Now all that remained was to hire a librarian to manage the library.

On April 4, 1916, the following telegram was sent to Mrs. Sadler of the Civic League:

"Trained experienced librarian, Miss Alice Gillam, Owensboro, Ky. arrives Monday."
L. E. Sterns.

The Monroe Public Library opened May 8, 1916 with 731 books. Library hours were from 3 to 6 p.m. every day except Sunday.

By the end of the 1910's, the library had outgrown the little one-room building on Wood Street, but had no money to move and nowhere to move to. Mrs. Anna Ruth Meyer died in 1920 leaving a gift that guaranteed the continued success of the library, Her will states,

"I leave my home on Jackson Street at the corner of Calypso together with all improvements for the purpose of being used for a free public library for all, especially for the poor of Monroe."

She also left $20,000, which was to be operating costs for several years. Mrs. Meyer left a provision in her will that if the home ever ceased to be used as a library, it was to be torn down.

The library moved to this location on January 28, 1921. The new library had a spacious reading and reference room, a club room, circulation room which also housed the fiction and children's collections, and work rooms.

In 1940, the Board of Control reorganized the library and changed the name from Monroe Public Library to Ouachita Parish Public Library. The library continued to grow under this reorganization plan, and the first branch of the library was opened in West Monroe at 307 Wood Street, October 8, 1941. Less than ten years later, the West Monroe Branch outgrew it's location and moved to a newly remodeled building on the corner of Cypress and Natchitoches.

In the next fifty years, the library grew by leaps and bounds and new branches were added as needed:

April 1, 1948 The first Bookmobile service was established
February 1, 1949 The Carver Branch opens at 109 1/2 Powell's Alley
April 15, 1949 Ouachita Parish Public Library receives the coveted Modisette Award
1948 The first children's summer reading club was established
1958 A new West Monroe branch opens at the corner of Clayton and Cypress Streets
1958 The Main Branch opens on Stubbs Ave.
1960 The Anna Meyer Branch is completed at 418 Jackson on the site of the original building
1964 The Carver Branch reopens in a new building at 2941 Renwick Street
January 12, 1969 The Joseph Bennett McGuire Genealogy Room opens at the Main Branch
June 5, 1977 Ouachita Valley Branch opens to the public
June 1988 The library card catalog goes online with the Dynix automation system
1993 Anna Meyer Branch is moved to its new location on Highway 165 South
December 16, 2001 West Ouachita Branch opens in the Cheniere Drew area on Hwy 546
September 19, 2002 Migration to the Dynix Horizon automation system with Horizon Information Portal web access
September 17, 2003 The Digital Library photo archives goes online
August 20, 2005 The Louise Williams Branch opens in the Swartz area at 140 Bayou Oaks Drive
June 14, 2007 The Sterlington Memorial Branch opens at 305 Keystone Drive.
June 5, 2008 Migration to the Polaris Library System.
November, 2009 Work begun on the Ollie Burns and Southwest Branches.
March, 2010 OPPL begins to lend eBooks
August, 2010 Ollie Burns Memorial Branch opens
February, 2011 Cpl. J.R. Searcy Memorial Branch opens

It is difficult to believe that all these services will one day be written about as historical facts in some student's research paper, but it is inevitable they will.

Past Library Directors of the
Ouachita Parish Public Library
Alice Gillam
Edith Gunby
Lillian Herron Williamson
Edith Townes Atkinson
Frances Michie
Marie Powers (acting librarian)
Frances Flanders
Dr. Julia Avant
Agnes Harris
Ben Brady
Cheryl Cooper Mouliere
2010-Present Robin Toms

*Thank you to Vivian McCain for some of the information used on this page.*

Our Mission

The mission of the Ouachita Parish Public Library is to advance literacy, inspire lifelong learning, and strengthen our community by serving everyone in Ouachita Parish.


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