Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Billie Stevens - In Honor of Bossier Parish Library's 70th Anniversary
Wanted: Bossier Parish Librarian C. 1950. Duties include: Put buckets under leaks, cut the tops off of large cans and nail them to cover holes in the floor, order books for all the schools in the Parish (in addition to the public library books), take the bookmobile on unpaved roads to Rocky Mount (or Chalybeate Springs, Red Land, Walker’s Chapel, or Mott), help get it out of a ditch, get back to Benton and type all the records of the circulated books and magazines, present children’s story hour, write a book review of the latest gardening book for the parish garden club meetings and home demonstration clubs, paint the walls and shelves, fix the plumbing and pay son to mow the grass out of own pocket or do it yourself. Sound nearly impossible? It was all in a day’s work for Mrs. Billie Williams Stevens of Benton, who worked for Bossier Parish Libraries from 1950 to 1984 and sat for an oral history interview in 2001.
She was with the library almost from its beginning. The library started in 1940 at the urging of the Bossier High School PTA as a demonstration library by the Louisiana Library Commission (now the State Library). It relied on library assistants from the Works Progress Administration, which was a Federal employment program created by the Franklin Roosevelt administration to pull the U.S. out of the Great Depression. Bossier had never had a public library save for some books donated to the courthouse for public use. The demonstration library system allowed the parish to experience the benefits of a public library for a year-long trial period, after which the parish would choose to either to abandon the program or take over the library by accepting the state’s books and equipment. The Police Jury voted almost unanimously to adopt the library on June 12, 1941. Although the war made the library very focal as a “War Information Center”, dedicated funding for the library was thwarted by World War II. It limped along financially until 1947 when it was funded with a tax specifically for the library system.