History of Our Libraries

April 4, 1893 Article
April 4, 1893 Article

The 1890’s

September 23, 1891 – The Biloxi Library Association files with the State of Mississippi for a Charter.

About 1893 – A subscription library (borrowers pay an annual fee) is in operation in Pass Christian.  The Library continued this operation for several years.

April 8, 1893 – A newspaper article reports on efforts to organize a public library in Biloxi.

November 21, 1976 - Clarion Ledger
Creole Cottage – November 21, 1976 – Clarion Ledger

1898 – King’s Daughters found first free public library in Mississippi, in Biloxi.  It was destroyed by fire in 1900, but reestablished in the Creole Cottage

The 1900’s

November 9, 1900 – Fire in Downtown Biloxi destroys 90 buildings, including the King’s Daughters Library building.

The 1910’s

March 23, 1911
March 23, 1911

March 23, 1911 – More than 1,000 volumes had been loaned out since January 1, 1911 from The King’s Daughters Library in Biloxi. Collection totals 3,000. <<Newspaper article.>>

October 27, 1911 – First steps were taken to organize a Library Association in Gulfport. A meeting was held at the Gulfport City Hall.  

About 1912 – Gulfport City Ordinance No. 337 establishes a free public library in a section of Gulfport City Hall.

1913 – King’s Daughters operates a small free library under staircase in Gulfport City Hall.

March, 1916 – Mayor George M. Foote of Gulfport reported that the Andrew Carnegie Corporation had made an appropriation of $10,000 for a 2,800 square foot Carnegie Library in Gulfport.

November 20, 1916 – Time Capsule Ceremonies are held for the new Gulfport-Carnegie Public Library, still under construction.

April 2, 1917 – After six months of construction, the Gulfport-Carnegie Public Library officially opens. Mrs. S. M. Williams is named Librarian. The City of Gulfport budgets a monthly “allowance” of $35.00 for Mrs. Williams salary and to purchase books and supplies.

The 1920’s

June 1, 1925 – Biloxi Library moves from the Creole Cottage to its new building at 124 Lameuse Street designed by local architect Carl Matthes.

1924 Biloxi Library
1924 Biloxi Library

1925-1926 – Automobile carrying boxes of books begins service to county areas from the Gulfport Carnegie Library.

1926 – Gulfport-Carnegie Library opens a county extension department, and the library begins to receive county funds on an annual basis.

1926 – Virgie Fayard becomes the librarian of the Biloxi Public Library.

The 1930’s

June 25, 1930 – Mollie Rodenberg, former Librarian of the Biloxi Library (1905-1925), passes away at age 82.

June 25, 1930
June 25, 1930

1931 – Florence Freidhoff named the Head Librarian of the Biloxi Public Library

1935 – Harrison County Rural Library stations and auto routes were established under Hyacinth Yerger with primarily funding from the Works Progress Administration

The 1940’s

1941 – Harrison County purchases a bookmobile.

1941-1943 – Harrison County Rural Library evolves into Harrison County Library and moves from the Gulf and Ship Island Building in Gulfport to an office on 25th Avenue in Gulfport.

1944 – Miss Maria Person appointed as the Head of the Harrison County Library. She is the first library science degree holder to be employed by a library in Harrison County.

February, 1947 – With funding from Harrison County and the Lions Club, the Gulfport-Carnegie Library opens a branch at the corner of 19th Street and 43rd Avenue in Gulfport.  It later becomes known as the West Branch.

October, 1947 –  The Harrison County Library and the Gulfport Carnegie Library merge. The new Library is known as the Gulfport Carnegie-Harrison County Library. Maria Person is appointed as Head Librarian.

The 1950’s

1951 – Gulfport Carnegie-Harrison County Library opens a second branch, the East Branch, in the Soria City area of Gulfport.

1953 – Gulfport Carnegie-Harrison County Library purchases a new bookmobile to replace the l94l vehicle.

The 1960’s

1961 – The Pass Christian Library Commission forms to promote the establishment of public library service in Pass Christian.

1962 – Biloxi Public Library opens the Division Street Station in Biloxi. Later designated a branch, it becomes a Children’s Library.

1963 – Maria Person, Gulfport Head Librarian, serves as the President of the Mississippi Library Association.

1964 – House Bill No. 716 passed by legislature. Bill provides the legal framework for construction and operation of a new City-County main library to replace the aging and over-crowded Carnegie building in downtown Gulfport. The bill establishes a ten-person board (five appointed by supervisors; five by Gulfport City Commission) to control the library and provides a new formula for the continual support of the library (three-fourths of funding from Harrison County, one-fourth from City of Gulfport).

June 27, 1965
June 27, 1965

1965 – Gulfport Carnegie-Harrison County Library purchases a new bookmobile to replace the l953 vehicle.

July 1965 – Construction begins on the new Gulfport-Harrison County Public Library on 21st Ave at 14th Street.

July 1966 – The new Gulfport-Harrison County Library opens.  The building’s $892,000 cost is financed from bonds issued by Harrison County. 

November 27, 1966 – Formal Dedication Ceremonies are held for the new Gulfport-Harrison County Library building.

1968 – The Biloxi Public Libraries’ West Biloxi Library Branch opens.

August, 1969 – The new library building in Gulfport is seriously damaged by Hurricane Camille, the only public library in the county to be badly damaged. Services are suspended for some weeks. Approximately 45,000 volumes were lost in the storm. 

The 1970’s

March, 1970 – B. W. Finkbiner is hired as the Business Manager for the Gulfport-Harrison County Library.

1971 – Friends of the Pass Christian Library organization forms.

1971 – After some years of declining use, the East and West Gulfport Branches are closed.

July, 1972 – Maria Person , Gulfport Head Librarian for over twenty-seven years, passes away.  B. W. Finkbiner, Business Manager, takes over as head of the Gulfport-Harrison County Library.

September 5, 1972 – Florence Freidhoff, Head Librarian of the Biloxi Public Library for forty years, passes away.

September 1972 – Blondie Broom Hartmann is named the Acting Head Librarian for the Biloxi Public Library.

December, 1972 – Chairman of the Gulfport-Harrison County Library Board signs an agreement with the Mississippi Library Commission that makes Harrison County public libraries eligible for funds from the Commission’s Personnel Grants Incentive Program. Terms for participating in this program require recipients to be in a county or multi-county library system headed by a director who holds a master’s degree from an American Library Association (ALA) accredited library school.

In fiscal year 1972-1973, libraries in Harrison County receive $143,227 from the grant, including salary for a professional librarian recently employed in Pass Christian where a new library building is under construction.

May, 1973 – Using a Mississippi Library Commission owned bookmobile as a temporary building, the Gulfport-Harrison County Library opens regular branch library service in the Orange Grove area of the county. The Bookmobile is soon replaced by a mobile home also loaned by the Commission.

June 1973
June 1973

June, 1973 – Announcement of plans to build a new library in Orange Grove. Also, Mr. Finkbiner, implementing the library system concept, sets up a centralized interlibrary loan office in the Gulfport-Harrison County Library and a twice-a-week intralibrary delivery service. 

June, 1973 – Norman Graham is employed as director of the Gulfport-Harrison County Library. The State Library Commission regards his employment as fulfilling the requirement that the county library system be headed by a qualified librarian.

June, 1973 – New public library building opens in Pass Christian. Funds for building from: Harrison County – $50,000; Hurricane Camille “we care” funds – $72,716; City of Pass Christian, $16,000.

October, 1973 – A newspaper article reports that Biloxi’s oldest library (The Creole Cottage) is to be relocated and restored.

October 24, 1973
October 24, 1973

1974 – Friends of the Gulfport-Harrison County Library organize.

May, 1974 – Gulfport-Harrison County Library establishes Harrison County Library System Technical Processing Center serving all the library jurisdictions in the county.

September, 1974 – Gulfport-Harrison County Library receives a grant of $51,293 from Mississippi Library Commission to produce the Mississippi Union List of Periodicals, a computer generated listing of the periodical holdings of some 40 of the largest libraries in the state. This immensely complicated project, the first major computerized publication ever produced in the state, is successfully completed in June, 1975. William E. Stant is hired to complete this complex project.

September 24, 1974
September 24, 1974

December, 1974 – The Orange Grove Branch moves into the Norwood Village Shopping Center.

May, 1975 – Friends of the Biloxi Library organization holds its first meeting.

September, 1975 – A scale model of Biloxi’s proposed $1.6 million Library and Cultural Center is exhibited at the first general meeting of the Friends of the Biloxi Library.

September 17, 1975
September 17, 1975

September 1975 – A proposed contract for the new Harrison County Library System is completed.  The contract left local library autonomy intact and created a representative Advisory Board.

October, 1975 – Ground breaking ceremonies are scheduled and held for the new Biloxi Public Library-Cultural Center.

February 1976 – The Advisory Board of the Harrison County Library System holds its initial meeting. Norman Graham was appointed Acting Director of the Harrison County Library System.

May, 1976 – The Pass Christian Public Library becomes a member of the system.

September, 1976 – A library branch opens in the North Bay (now D’Iberville) area of Harrison County.

September 1, 1976 – Blondie Broom Hartmann retires from the Biloxi Public Library after twenty years of service.

October 1976 – The Harrison County Library System begins its first fiscal year of operation.  System Headquarters, housed in the Gulfport-Harrison County Library, runs a technical processing center, bookkeeping office, and interlibrary loan office.

September 11, 1977 – The Biloxi Library and Cultural Center at 139 Lameuse Street officially opens in a 33,400 square foot building.

September 1977 –  The system Bookmobile service is retired, and a route serving nursing and retirement homes, the County Farm, day care centers, and the Juvenile Court is established.

December 1978 – The new Orange Grove Branch building opens.

March 1979 – The new D’Iberville Library Branch building opens.

The 1980’s

September 1982 – Charline Longino is named the Head Librarian for the Biloxi Public Libraries.

August 8, 1983 – Harrison County supervisors, by resolution of August 8, 1983, creates the Harrison County Public Library System, under control of a five-member board made up of representatives from the municipal library boards, the city-county board, and one member from the county at large.

October 26, 1988
October 26, 1988

August 1, 1984 – The Genealogy Room at the Biloxi Public Library is dedicated in memory of Blondie Broom Hartmann

October, 1988 – Japanese children provide a doll lost in Camille to the Gulfport Public Library.

The 1990’s

March 1, 1993 – Norman Graham retires after nearly 20 years of service as the Director of the Harrison County Library System. Gulfport librarian Coleen Byrd is the Acting Director.

August 8, 1993 – Richard Mobley is hired as the Director of the Harrison County Library System.

November 29, 1994
November 29, 1994

November, 1994 – The Harrison County Library System launches a $100,000 fund raising campaign to help pay for a new computerized card catalog system.

1995 – Charline Longino, Head Librarian of the Biloxi Public Libraries, serves as the President of the Mississippi Library Association.

May 2, 1995 – New D’Iberville Public Library opens on Auto Mall Parkway.

1996 – Celia Barrett named the Head Librarian for the Gulfport Public Libraries.

September 1996 – Richard Mobley resigns as the Director of the Harrison County Library System. Norman Graham named Acting Director.

September 1996 – The long awaited computerized card catalog system is installed, linking all eight libraries together, and centralizing the card catalog system.

April 15, 1997 – Robert Lipscomb named Director of the Harrison County Library System.

November 5, 1997 – The Harrison County Library System launches its web site at www.harrison.lib.ms.us.

January – March, 1998 – The Harrison County Library System purchases twenty-five computers for placement in public areas of the eight libraries for Internet access, word processing, and card catalog access.

April, 1999 – The Harrison County Library System receives a grant for the purchase of computer equipment from the Gates Library Foundation, a non-profit organization now known as Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

August – December, 1999 – The General Services Administration (GSA), an agency of the Federal Government, wants to purchase the Gulfport Public Library site for the construction of a new federal courthouse. A group of over 300 library supporters form and rally to save the Gulfport Library from demolition. In February 2000, GSA announces that it will not tear down the Gulfport Library.

The 2000’s

February 18, 2000 – Robert Lipscomb, Director, announces plans to locally raise $300,000 and apply for $300,000 in state matching funds to renovate and restore the thirty-four year old Gulfport Library.

December 12, 2002 – The groundbreaking ceremony for the addition of the Margaret S. Sherry Library is held. 

January 16, 2004 – Grand Reopening of the Margaret S. Sherry Memorial Library Branch.

April 22, 2005 – Murella H. Powell retires from the Biloxi Public Library after thirty-three years of service.  The Local History & Genealogy Department collections are renamed “The Murella H. Powell Local History & Genealogy Collection.”

August 29, 2005 – Several libraries within the Harrison County Library System are either destroyed or severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina.  Photographs

September 2005 – Sally James becomes the Head Librarian of the Pass Christian Library.

September 2005 – Library service in the Harrison County Library System resumes on a limited basis.  Many branches remained closed due to destruction.

October 2005 – The Biloxi Public Library is awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman’s Grant to help stabilize and preserve the Local History & Genealogy Department Collections.

November 5, 2005 – The Pass Christian Library reopens in War Memorial Park with the donation of two trailers from DuPont DeLisle Plant.

January 2, 2007 – The D’Iberville Public Library reopens.

June 14, 2007 – Ribbon Cutting ceremonies are held at the East Biloxi Temporary Library (150 Bellman St., Biloxi, MS) and the Woolmarket Temporary Library (8455 Woolmarket Rd, Biloxi, MS).  Grant funding for the temporary library trailers provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and SOLINET.

June 15, 2007 – Ribbon Cutting ceremony held at the Gulfport Temporary Library located at 47 Maples Drive in Gulfport, MS.  Grant funding for the temporary library trailer provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and SOLINET.

November 2007 – The Local History & Genealogy Department was awarded a grant from the Connecticut Book Party for programming and relocation expenses.

June 20, 2008 – D’Iberville Head Librarian Nancy Soder retires.  Lucienne Gautier named the new Head Librarian for D’Iberville.

July 31, 2008 – The D’Iberville Public Library is officially renamed the Jerry Lawrence Memorial Library in honor of the late Mr. Lawrence’s contributions to the city and his service as the first mayor of the city.

August 2008 – Bush Clinton Katrina Funds are awarded to the West Biloxi Library for post-Katrina repairs to the existing building.  Funds of $300,000 are allocated to the library for roof reconstruction.

September 2008 – Bush Clinton Katrina Funds are awarded to the Pass Christian Library to assist in re-building a new library for Pass Christian.  Funds totaling $300,000 are allocated to the library project.

October 27, 2008 – The Biloxi Public Library’s Local History & Genealogy Department officially reopens in downtown Biloxi after relocating to 135 Main Street on the third floor of the Biloxi Post Office. The ceremonies mark the first time since 2005 that the HCLS historical collections are consolidated in one location.

December 8, 2008 – The Orange Grove Library celebrates its 30th Annivesary with an holiday-themed open house and refreshments.

February 20, 2009 – The groundbreaking ceremonies are held for the new Pass Christian Library. An open house at the Pass Christian Library’s War Memorial Park location was held afterwards where shrimp and grits and other luncheon items were served.

This page was last updated on 2/20/2009

Credits & Sources