Diboll's love affair with its library began in the early 1900s. Since a few years after the founding of Diboll in 1894, a library, in some form or another, has been a town fixture. In order to maintain the library's prominent status within the community, a renovation and expansion project has been developed and is set to begin in 2007.
It all began when a guesthouse, known as "The Library", was built by Southern Pine Lumber Company for Temple Family members and company officials visiting Diboll. There was a large living room on the bottom floor, with bookshelves lining the wall at one end. The collection of books was managed by Mrs. Fannie Farrington, a pioneer lady T.L.L. Temple convinced to come to Diboll in the late 1890's to establish a community and bring culture to the area.
Dibollians gained access to a public library in 1934, when Lufkin's Kurth Memorial Library opened its facilities to Angelina County residents through book stations established in outlying communities, including Diboll.
As Diboll's population continued to grow, the need for Diboll's own library became evident. Arthur Temple, Jr. recognized this need and helped begin the process. In February 1960, Latane Temple, then Vice President of Southern Pine Lumber Company, secured a small 12'x12' frame building from the company and set it up in an area just off the Village Square.
About 1,200 books were donated and processed by volunteers under the direction of Jonney McCall, Julia Schinke, and Mae Love. A year later, the Friends of the Diboll Library was organized at the urging of James L. Love. The group raised the Library's first operating budget of $800 dollars. The Diboll Booster Club sponsored the organization and appointed a ten-member board in 1961 to oversee library operations.
James L. Love was elected Chairman of the Board. He and his wife, Mae, brought a wealth of experience to the budding library. Mae was a degreed Librarian, having worked for the New York Public Library. Jim previously served as Chairman of the Louisiana State Library, and began a term as President of the Friends of Texas Libraries in 1961.
The pursuit of a new, larger facility began in 1962, after the Booster Club donated the $6,000 raised from that year's Diboll Day to the Library. Many Temple employees pledged a portion of their wages, some for as long as 3 years, contributing $15,000. Including these pledges, citizens and friends of Diboll contributed approximately $35,000 to the project. Additional funds were raised from the Temple Family and a Federal grant.
Less than three years later, a brand new 4,400 square foot, $150,000 public library, complete with an 80-seat meeting room and book capacity of 10,000 volumes was opened to the public.
The new facility was officially dedicated on April 25, 1964. Designed by John Desmond of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the new facility used locally manufactured products. The distinctive design won several awards including one from the Institute of American Architects. The Library also won the Texas Library Association Project of the year in 1968.
Gertie Mae Lawrence was hired as the first librarian in 1961 and served until her untimely death in 1968. Joy Smith and Mae Love ran the library from that time until 1974, when Smith resigned.
In June 1974, Brenda Leamons, an MLS degreed Librarian, was hired. Now Mrs. Brenda Russell, she has remained as librarian until present, excluding a two-year absence where Judy Thompson served as Librarian.
After 17 years in the original building, the Library reached its capacity. The Jim and Mae Love North Wing was added in 1981, providing an additional 2,500 square feet.
Four years later, the Temple Archives opened. This space was designed for the preservation of historical documents and artifacts from the City of Diboll, Temple Family, Library and Temple-Inland. In May 2003, the Archives Department moved into The History Center, a new, $2,000,000 facility located at 102 North Temple Dr.
Technology has also created significant change for the Library. In January, 1994, the first public Internet access computer was offered. Local and State grants from 1999 to the present have enabled the Library to establish a Technology Center, providing computers for adults, teens, children, and the physically challenged. The Library catalog is now linked to the Diboll School District, allowing greater access for students.
The Library has grown leaps and bounds since its modest beginning. The original collection of 1,200 books has expanded to over 32,000 volumes. Materials checked out have increased from 160 the first month to over 2500.
After the death of Virginia Nelson, a long-time Board member and Library supporter, her daughters donated their parents' home and property to the library. The home was used as a meeting room and children's activity area for two years, until it had to be torn down due to structural problems.
With the new space opened on the property, located directly behind the Library building, re-design and expansion ideas blossomed. Lufkin attorney Claude E. Welch approached the Board about including a memorial to his lifelong friend, Judge John Hannah, Jr., who had recently passed away. The Board decided it was time to develop a strategic plan for the Library.
A community survey was conducted, and program and service evaluations and strategic planning reports were prepared by Sheila Ross Henderson, Director of the Pasadena Public Library and Houston Area Library System Consultant.
The City of Diboll spoke and the Board listened. Based on the information gathered in the community survey and the reports, a multi-million dollar renovation and expansion project is projected to break ground in the spring of 2007.
The $2 million dollar project will include a reading room honoring Diboll native Hannah. Hannah was Chief Judge of the Eastern District of Texas at the time of his unexpected death in 2003.
A project rendering is available to view in the foyer of the Library. As in the past, once again there is an opportunity to make this a community-based effort. In order to make this project a success, the Library Board of Directors are calling for support from you. There are various levels of sponsorship available, and any support is greatly appreciated.