|The Long Beach Public Library traces it beginning to 1895 when a library was named for Mrs. Garland Ferguson, who donated 250 books to help start it. However, the Big Fire of Long Beach, New Year’s Eve 1923, destroyed the building.
The Old Vegetable Packing Shed (where now stands the Hancock Bank), which was part of the early history of Long Beach, was the scene of the next effort toward a town library. Part-time workers served as librarians, and packing crates served as bookshelves. Books were collected through book showers and door-to-door campaigns. The old packing shed burned, and with its destruction a period followed in which there was no library.
In 1939, concerned citizens of this then-small community of a few hundred families circulated a petition to raise funds for a town library. Thirty-seven determined citizens organized the library and named Mrs. Stella S. Buckles as librarian.
The old Hancock Bank building on Jeff Davis Avenue became the library headquarters. An organizational meeting of the Long Beach Library Association was held October 2, 1939 in the old Hancock Bank building. The library was immediately opened without funds and very few books. By February 1940, records show the library contained 626 books. By September of that year, the infant library boasted books in excess of 1000 volumes.
|Occupancy in the old Hancock Bank building was temporary. The Long Beach Chamber of Commerce offered space to the library in the newly built Patenote Building at a yearly rate of $60.00. Here it remained until proceedings started by the trustees to purchase land, seek federal and state aid, and local monies for construction of a library at its present site. The present structure was completed and opened March 27, 1966.In 1968 an active Friends of the Long Beach Public Library organized under the leadership of Mrs. Henry Levy. Through their work as an auxiliary group, the Friends have contributed to the operating budget of the library.
The library was closed several weeks after the devastating August 1969 hurricane. Three families sought shelter in the library during the storm. They witnessed the windows bending during peak winds and the Gulf waters come up to the library steps–four blocks north of the beach highway. The water did not enter the building though. Almost 400 books were lost in the damaged homes of borrowers.
In the early 1980’s, Long Beach Public Library became the first library on the Gulf Coast to have a computerized cataloging system.
|In March of 1999, the Long Beach Public Library was the first library in Harrison County to receive four Gateway computers that were donated to the library as part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s goal to put Internet access in every library across America. These computers came pre-programmed with Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office 97, and various other educational software programs. In 1998 and in 2000, Internet classes were offered to the library’s patrons, and beginning again in 2002, beginner computer classes were offered to the public by Dr. Robert Pickett and Renee Rayburn in order to raise computer literacy in the Long Beach community. By August of 2005, there were over 2500 patrons registered at Long Beach Library as Internet users, hourly use per month averages to about 800-900 hours, and patron use per day averaged to about 45-50 patrons.On March 22, 2001, a fund-raising kick-off called Imagine 2001 was held on the grounds between the current library location and Long Beach City Hall. Partnered with a grant from the Mississippi Library Commission and the City of Long Beach, Imagine 2001 would provide the necessary funds to furnish a new children’s wing.
In March of 2003, groundbreaking for the new children’s library began, and on December 13, 2003, the new addition was opened and dedicated to Peter G. Psikogios III, grandson of Library Board Chairman Peter Psikogios, Sr.
|On August 29, 2005, Category 4 Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Central Gulf Coast near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, but the devastation she caused would span three states and cost over $200 billion. Every city along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi would be affected by this storm. Most people would compare what they saw, or what they no longer saw to a “war zone”. In Long Beach, where the majority of all businesses were located south of the railroad tracks that run through the neighboring towns, the tracks acted as a barrier to the wind and water, but they could not protect the majority of the homes and businesses closest to the beach. The Long Beach Public Library was just one of the many of these businesses who took a beating from the wrath of Katrina. When the south wall caved in from the pressure of the winds and water, the building received 3 1/2 feet of the Gulf’s water throughout the first floor of the main wing and adjoining children’s wing. Damage to the roof on the second floor of the main wing was fortunately slight as well as the only damage done to the second floor, and so the reference and non-fiction collection remained salvageable. But downstairs, aside from the tops shelves of the fiction section and some of the top shelves in the children’s wing, all was lost.
In late December, a librarian by the name of Cynthia Terwiliger from Polk County Library, North Carolina arrived with over 1000 books for the Long Beach Public Library. This campaign, originally an idea of Long Beach evacuee, Jean Sneed, and the town librarian of Polk County, was designed to remake history (“The Long Beach Public Library traces it beginning to 1895 when a library was named for Mrs. Garland Ferguson, who donated 250 books to help start it.”), preceded all expectations and was a huge success for the library and its community. It was also the start of an outpouring of support from coast to coast in order to help the Long Beach Public Library.
Although we are a long way from being where we were days before Hurricane Katrina, the Polk County Library and Lanier Library System of North Carolina placed a book plate in most of the books that they donated that reminds us that it will all be all right, because…