Brief History of the Montgomery City-County Public Library
Initial library service was started in the city of Montgomery on June 19, 1899, above a drug store on Dexter Avenue, McBryde's Drugstore. Finances for this first venture were accumulated through a subscription drive promoted largely by the Montgomery Advertiser. The first librarian was Miss Laura M. Elmore, a devoted book lover who gave forty years of her life to the development of a better Montgomery.
The Montgomery Library Association was by subscription membership of $1.00, but "the founders of said institution have ever had in mind not a subscription or private library, but an institution that might become a free means of culture and inspiration to all the classes and factions of our people." (Quoted from the first constitution of the Montgomery Library Association signed in 1898).
Andrew Carnegie, the philanthropist, agreed in 1901 to build a library building in Montgomery provided the city would agree to maintain the library at a cost of $5,000 a year and to providing a site. The building was completed and doors open to all in 1904.
From that date on the basic struggle was for more money and more public awareness of libraries. The budget was hard to raise, the public care of books neglected, but still the doors remained open.
Finally in 1945 under the directorship of Jean Daman the clouds began to clear. The budget doubled and the circulation began to grow. From that date on nothing was to be recorded but progress and more progress.
New Year's Day 1948 was the start of bookmobile service in Montgomery. Using a small truck donated by the County, the Junior League manned the bookmobile for a year. In 1951 a bookmobile was purchased. The bookmobile librarian (Allen Morton) was installed, and service was initiated to schools during the school months and community service during the summer.
Long overdue library service to Negroes began on December 17, 1949, with Mrs. Bertha Williams as branch librarian. This was the very first branch of the library system opened in the City Federation of Colored Women's Clubhouse on Union Street. With this collection housed in the community center, the problems and difficulties are to remain manifold for the branch right up to the opening day. Yet the greatest obstacle had now been hurdled--the lack of any service at all.
On April 5, 1949 the Montgomery Library Association transferred its deeds and property to the City of Montgomery. As the library became an integral part of municipal government, the ideals of the founders of the Montgomery Library Association was unfolding--an institution providing the free means of culture and inspiration to all the residents of Montgomery.
By June 1960 the citizens of Montgomery had shown their appreciation for the great strides in services rendered under the driving skill of Dixie Lou Fisher. Books were made available by granting a new million-dollar home for the Main library and museum for arts. The picture to the right shows the Lawrence St. entrance. The entrance to the museum was on the other side or east front. In 1991 the museum got its own building and the entire building was renovated to allow more room for the library and a south entrance to face the parking lot and High Street.
A fashionably modern building was built for the west side of Montgomery on Cleveland Avenue (renamed Rosa Parks Ave.) A half-century of civic cooperation has changed a small subscription library into a vigorous free institution open to all and serving thousands.
City Hall became the next site for a small branch collection in 1966, serving City Hall and downtown employees from a basement room.
In 1974, the City and County merged two separate library systems into one with the City retaining full management control over the library and establishing the very first Montgomery City-County Public Library System in Montgomery County. Since that time the library has continued to grow.
The present library system has ten branches; Main Library providing in depth reference service and collection to all citizens of Montgomery. EL Lowder and Rufus A. Lewis Regional libraries providing service to the East and West portion of the community respectively and smaller branches dispersed among these three libraries assisting in providing service to the city and county.
In 1996, the Montgomery County Commission erected a 6,670 square foot building to, which replaced the trailer, which housed the Pintlala Branch. This building was made possible through the estate of a lifelong resident of the Pintlala community, Mrs. Buena Mae Sellers. Her bequest of over $200,000 was the thrust, which the library needed to move ahead with its library development program of advancing library service in the rural community.
The library operates under a library board jointly appointed by city and county government.
In retrospect, much has been accomplished since the first library opened above a drugstore on Dexter Avenue in 1899. From a small subscription collection, the library has grown to a collection of over 600,000 volumes, with a circulation of over half-a-million items annually. From the toddler story time to Dial-a-story (a twenty four hour story line to citizens in Montgomery County) books on tape, videos, films and compact disc, online automated circulation and related services through a wide area network, Internet access to several electronic databases, a computer training lab open to the public and to anyone having need of this technology, the public library is leading the way to becoming a public place where information can be collected and disseminated. The staff has grown from a small number of three employees to over 61 employees in 2000 and 73 employees in 2003 running the gamut of a ALA accredited professional degree in Library Science (MLS), PhDs, Masters in Library Educational Media, bachelor degrees in computer information systems, computer science, art history, guidance and counseling and business.
The Montgomery City-County Public Library has a very bright future in the city and county of Montgomery and all because a few citizens saw a need back in 1899.
February 16, 2000
Rev. November 5, 2003
The mission of the Montgomery City-County Public Library System is to make readily available to all residents of Montgomery County access to materials, information, and services to meet their personal, educational, cultural, technological, and occupational needs.
The Montgomery City-County Public Library will enhance the quality of life for Montgomery County citizens by serving as central Alabama's premier repository for a broad-based and comprehensive collection of books and data and its most accessible site for Internet and digital services. The library also aims to respond programmatically to the personal interests, educational imperatives, and research needs of Montgomery County citizens.