August 4. The “B.E.S.T.W.S”, a social club, was formed. Devoted to the discussion of books, the name was derived from the initials of its 6 charter members last names: Jessie Lea Bethume; Harriet Elster; Ruth Smith; Eunice Thompson; Marguerite Watkins; and, Helen Smith.
April 11. Wanting to provide community service the club’s members decided to form a public library. With its new goal in mind, the B.E.S.T.W.S changed its name to the Terrebonne Library Club.
May 5. The Terrebonne Library Club, which had grown to 13 members, was opened to the public in the People’s Bank building. With 428 donated volumes, the library operated 3 days a week. Because of its immediate success, Sylvia Ray Johnson was hired as the first librarian. Her salary was provided through club dues and overdue fines. Financial assistance provided by the City Government, Police Jury, School Board and private sector supplied the means to purchase additional library material.
The People’s Bank building was sold to the City of Houma so the library was moved to a room in the Houma Central School (demolished). But when school started, the library had to be moved again. The Daspit Building was the library’s home till June 8, 1934. The library was growing so quickly that the Club members felt that with their small numbers they would be unable to support and operate it. In order to insure the library’s permanent operation, a coalition of supporters comprised of individuals, City Government, Policy Jury and the School Board donated a building and site. Davis Aerial Photographic Services would later be located in this building.
February 7. Once again, the new site had become inadequate to meet the needs of a rapidly growing community. So the Club sought help from the State Librarian, Essae Martha Culver and the Louisiana Library Commission (currently the Louisiana State Library). After meeting with Club members, the state agreed to operate the library for 1 year. After that, the parish would have to be able to support the library on its own.
November 5. In a renovated wooden house on the corner of Roussell and Verret, the Public Library opened its doors. A focal point of the new facility was a fireplace, enticing people to sit and read.
November. A 1 mill property tax was overwhelming passed by Terrebonne Parish voters to continue library services. At this time, the Terrebonne Parish Library Board of Control became the library’s governing body.
August 2. A brand new 8500 square foot stone and brick building was dedicated. It is located at the corner of Roussell and Verret.
The library board of control did an assessment of the library system that revealed the inadequacies of the library system: insufficient book and audiovisual collections, employee shortages, inadequate buildings, non-compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and deficiencies in technological resources. The goal became to meet state standards.
The library board of control asked voters to renew and increase the library’s property tax millage. The measure was defeated by 62%. With the property millage on the verge of expiration, the library board of control researched replacing the property millage with a sales tax.
After heading up a steering committee to look for another way to generate funds, it was decided that the library system would go back to the voters asking for a quarter cents sales tax to fund the system. The tax passed by a slim 51% which increased the library’s budget from one million dollars to six million dollars. This money is used for operation, maintenance, and capital improvements for the library system. To fulfill the state requirements for building standards and to address the inadequate size of the Main Library, the library board of control began researching and planning for a new main library. A public library building consultant was hired; focus groups were conducted throughout the parish and board members and staff attended workshops on designing public libraries. The result was a new main library designed to service the needs of the parish for coming generations.
April 24. The library system closed the old 8,500 square foot, fifty-two year-old building and dedicated a 70,000 square main library. It is set up for state-of-the-art technological needs with a computer lab, distance education classroom and expansion space for public computers. A drive-through window is designed to meet the demands of a mobile community living fast-paced lives. The amphitheater, arts and crafts room, story time room, group study rooms, and large meeting room will allow for more and better programs and activities.
August. Hurricane Katrina dramatically affected Terrebonne Parish with an influx of evacuee from New Orleans seeking shelter at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center because of the destruction to the city. The evacuees were welcomed to the Main Library to use the computers to locate family and fill out FEMA and insurance forms. Businesses were allowed to meet in the library to meet payroll and other employee needs.
September. Three weeks later the tables turned as Hurricane Rita caused destruction to the lower potion of Terrebonne Parish that flooded the Chauvin and Grand Caillou branch libraries.
April. The Chauvin Branch Library was relocated to another building as a temporary site to provide library service to the community.
February. Reading Well Preschool Outreach Program was implemented to visit licensed daycare and learning centers in Terrebonne Parish. This service delivers bags of big books and educational resources on a rotational basis and offers staff training on using the materials.
June 9. As promised to the voters of Terrebonne Parish, renovating eight library branches is a work in progress to update aging buildings and to accommodate technology services. The first renovation work was completed on the East Houma Branch that provides a beautiful interior to accommodate an expanded children’s section, teen section, and more computer stations.
September 1. A mobile library was presented to the library system by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as administered by Solinet’s Gulf Coast Libraries Project as a temporary site for flood-damaged Grand Caillou Branch Library.
March 21. The Dularge Branch was reopened after a 15 month renovation project. The facility’s interior was updated and reconfigured to provide spacious areas for arts and crafts, along with separate teen and children’s areas. DVDs were added to the collection and three computer stations for the public are now available.
November 7. The Grand Caillou Branch Library was rebuilt and opened as a state-of-the-art building to better withstand flooding and winds from future hurricanes. It replaces the original building at that location heavily damaged by a tidal surge from Hurricane Rita in September 2005. The new facility is equipped with a new book collection and extensive DVDs. Six computers are available for public use, and a spacious open area will allow programming for adults, teens, and children.
December 11. The North Branch Library reopened after extensive renovation to this 1976 facility. The extensive expansion provides a large meeting room that seats 200, a smaller meeting room for 50, four study rooms, expanded teen area, a whimsical children’s area with an arts-and craft room, 26 public computers, wireless capabilities, and a computer classroom that offers free computer classes.
Present The library board of control and staff are still striving to meet state standards. The collections of books, DVD, and books-on-CD are continuing to expand, and with new items continually being added. Currently, the library system is wireless and has approximately 100 computers available for public use. Over 1,200 programs and activities per year are provided to children, teens and adults. After the completion of the Main Library, renovations to East Houma, Dularge, Grand Caillou, and North branches have been completed with Bourg, Montegut, Chauvin, and Gibson to be done next. These renovations will provide the citizens of the parish with quality collections, programs, and technology – services that they deserve to have to provide a better quality of life. It’s a simple fact: a library says a lot about a community.