This online version of our centennial exhibition presents the exhibit's full text along with a selection of images used to illustrate the history of NOPL services. The resolution of the online images is relatively low. To see the "real thing," do try to visit the Main Library at 219 Loyola Avenue between now and the end of July 1996.

Beginnings * Technical Services * Circulation/Registration * Finances * Reference * Collections * Childrens' Services
Programming * Education * Extension * The Third Floor

The picture of what we are, compared with what we hope to be, is ever before us, an incentive to greater effort and productivity, and throughout the year's report is the running commentary of change, growth, development. Let the record speak. . . . [Annual Report, 1947, p. 7]

During the 112 years between [1843 and 1945], the New Orleans Public Library has developed from a French Quarter house, a few volumes, and no patrons into a city-wide system circulating each year well over a million books, musical recordings and art prints to an interested and demanding public, and serving as Information Center for 700,000 people. [Annual Report, 1945]

The chief purpose of a public library such as ours is to create and foster the love of reading and to furnish to our people the best books that they will read. [Annual Report, 1910, p. 5]

The New Orleans Public Library ... was begun as a small and modest institution with provision only for the circulation of books and without periodical, children's or reference departments; without branches or delivery stations. [Annual Report, 1911, p. 6]

Perhaps more than any other institution in the City of New Orleans, the Public Library sits astride the past and the future. In the depths of its Central Library is the Louisiana Division's archival collection dating back to 1769, a recorded legacy of the area's rich history. In an adjacent set of rooms hums the library's Data General computer, providing automated circulation services to users and, soon, an online public access catalog of library holdings system-wide. As libraries everywhere in the U.S. struggle with self-definition in the new "information age," NOPL, like many others, seeks to preserve and offer to the user both the fragile 200-year page and the slick magnetic disk. [King Research, New Orleans Public Library Planning Study, Final Report, 1984, p. 2-1]

In New Orleans, as elsewhere in the United States, and almost uniquely in the world, the public library is not only public in the sense that it is freely open to all the people, but also in the sense that it is established and supported by the public and is necessarily responsive to the public will. [John Mackenzie Cory, A Network of Public Libraries for New Orleans, p. 5]

We are proud of our history and are pleased to be able to share it with our public. Previous exhibits on the Library's history have focused on buildings, on the Andrew Carnegie donations, on Abijah Fisk's legacy and other major benefactors, and on library staff members over the years. This one is designed to trace the development of NOPL's services to its users over the past one hundred years.

The panels here on the second floor are filled with text, images, and captions chosen to highlight many of those services and how they were made possible. We have also used selected quotations from Library annual reports and other publications to provide additional documentation in NOPL's "own words." Because the long history of the New Orleans Public Library is so rich and varied, this exhibition is, by necessity, highly selective. By no means is the absence of a service, event, or other NOPL activity intended to suggest a lack of significance to the overall mission of the institution.

This portion of the exhibit comprises for the most part reproductions made from original documents, photographs, and other items in NOPL's collections. It will remain on view through July. An online version will be available through NUTRIAS, the Library's site on the World WideWeb at

Additional materials, including original documents and photographs, will be on view upstairs on the third floor through the end of 1996.

The reproductions used in this exhibition were produced by Ridgway's, Inc. Most of the reproductions, along with several original, duplicate items included on the panels, were laminated by Robert Baxter and Charles DeLong of NOPL's Duplications Service.

"Let the Record Speak: Celebrating 100 Years of Service at New Orleans Public Library" was designed and mounted by City Archives and Louisiana Division staff members Wayne Everard and Irene Wainwright. They were fortunate to have the rich resources of the City Archives and the rest of NOPL's collections at their disposal.