As early as 1893, the citizens of Lavaca County expressed an interest in establishing a county library when at a meeting of the Lavaca County White Teacher’s Institute, Messrs. E.J. Mair and Sam Schwartz were appointed to poll the teachers of the county to report on their views relative to the establishment of a library.
In September 1932, two local citizens, Mrs. Harvey Renger and Miss Evelyn Lacy, announced that a rental library, called the “Library Nook” had been organized for the purpose of supplying the people of Hallettsville with the best in books at the lowest possible cost. The yearly subscription was 50 cents and 75 individuals had already become members. This library was fashioned after successful rental libraries in larger cities. The library would be open each day in the East Building, across from the East Hotel.
In 1936, ten women who liked to read would meet periodically to exchange books: namely: Mrs. Sam Devall, Mrs. Edwin Timm, Mrs. M. L. Kroschel, Mrs. G.C. King, Mrs. Nina Parr, Miss Estacia Morgan, Miss Majorie Jolly, Mrs. Scott Hill, Mrs. Paul Fertsch and Mrs. Hilton O. Von Rosenberg. In 1937, they decided to organize as the Hallettsville Reading Club.
In January 1937, Mr. W.E. Gursch, the District Manager of Public Libraries, WPA division, informed the local Rotary Club that the county had a chance to obtain a library. The county only needed to furnish a room, books and necessary materials. The WPA would furnish the labor and help to care for the library. In February 1938, Mrs. Max Kroschel and three other members of the Reading Club appeared before the Hallettsville Chamber of Commerce asking for aid in securing a community library and offering the help of the Reading Club. The Chamber voted to contribute $1.50 per month for a one year period. The Hallettsville Rotary Club agreed to sponsor the library and the community secured the number of books. The WPA hired a librarian to catalog the books and the Lavaca County Library was formed.
On June 9, 1938, the Lavaca County Library officially opened its doors to the public in a small 10 X 10 foot room in the Hallettsville City Hall now the Hallettsville Volunteer Fire Department Station. The library hours were 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday with Mrs. Maude Wheeler serving as librarian. A change in management of the library took place on October 4, 1938 when Mrs. Wheeler resigned as librarian. Mrs. Ray Bishop replaced Wheeler the following week.
In addition to the free books, in January 1939, the library created a rental shelf at the library for its new books. The books rented for 10 cents per week and 3 cents per day thereafter. For the benefit of those who questioned a rental shelf in a free library, the answer was that it will help defray the expense of repairing old books as well as keeping up the supply of new books.
In July 1939, the library finished compiling its first annual report. The librarian had been paid by the WPA for the entire year and other expenses were met by socials and contributions. The amount of $130.66 was collected and $4.36 remained in the treasury. The rental shelf brought in $6.90 and fees from overdue books, $5.79. The library had grown from 200 books to about 900 books in the course of the year.
With the partial loss of WPA funding, the library hours were reduced to 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday afternoons only. By January of 1940, extended hours had been reinstated.
In May 1940, the public was invited to show its appreciation for having WPA support in keeping the library open for two years by visiting the library to see how it had progressed over the two years.
On June 28, 1941, WPA funds were withdrawn from the support of the library. With the three supporting organizations still donating $1.50 each month, a librarian was hired for 50 cents per day, two days a week for three hours. On August 1, 1941, a request was made by the State Library Historical Commission for information about libraries operating in Texas: Lavaca County Library was established June 6, 1938 with annual report ending June 6, 1941. During the three year period, 1,114 books have been placed on the shelves. During the past year, 178 volumes were added, 91 of these are new books.
The total income for the three years, $382.24 all funds being included such as fines, donations and rentals. Source of income is through three civic organizations each donating $1.50 per month. We are open only two days of each week since the WPA has discontinued the librarian’s salary. Each Wednesday and Saturday the library is open to the public from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The above report may be significant in our continuation in retaining a public library.
In January 1943, the Reading Club assumed the sponsorship of the library in place of the Rotary Club. The Rotary Club, Lion’s Club, Parent-Teachers Organization and the Chamber of Commerce did continue to contribute annually to the support of the library.
The Reading Club expanded its services in 1947 when the members decided to sponsor a County Library for rural schools, offering them suitable books for children form the first grade through the seventh. In 1948, the Rural Library was housed with the County Library and Mrs. Emmett Busch continued to handle the details of the book work for the benefit of rural school children. In 1949, a new location for the Rural Children’s Library was being considered. The Rural Library would move from the room at the City Hall to a room in the Lavaca County Courthouse adjoining Supt. W. A. Eiler’s office.
At a February 23, 1960 Reading Club meeting a discussion ensued concerning the future of the library. Due to the financial difficulties experienced by the club in operating the library, the members decided that unless additional funds could be raised for its future operation, the club may be forced to abandon the project. However, the community responded and in January 1961 the Beta Sigma Phi donated $150.00 to be used to pay the librarian’s salary. The newly organized Hallettsville Garden Club donated an additional $25.00.
On December 22, 1962, Mr. J. H. Simpson Sr. donated a property at the corner of Kelly and Fourth streets on the SW corner of Block 35 to the City of Hallettsville for a new library building. On June 3, 1963, the Library committee of the Hallettsville Reading Club was given permission by the City of Hallettsville to serve as a planning committee to investigate public library buildings. The committee consisted of Mrs. Rogan Beal, Mrs. Evelyn Turk, Mrs. J. H. Simpson Sr., Mrs. Emmett Busch, Mr. J. H. Simpson, Mrs. Gus Strauss, Mrs. Thelma Buss, Mrs. Virgil Minear and Mrs. Christine Hrncir, local librarian. One August 5, 1963, the committee submitted their report to City Council. The committee was authorized by the council to contact an architect to make recommendations for construction of the building.
On October 7, 1963, the City of Hallettsville passed a Library Ordinance setting up a library department and creates a five member board to operate the proposed library appointed by the mayor and approved by the council. The City appointed Mrs. Alfred Turk, Mrs. J. H. Simpson Sr., Mrs. Rogan Beal, Mrs. Virgil Minear and Mrs. Emmett Busch as board members.
On June 22, 1964, the library board met at the home of Mrs. J.H. Simpson Sr. for an organizational meeting. The board had met on numerous occasions during the ensuing months in the interest of the new building but to this date had not been formally organized. On July 6, the library board met with Mr. Emmit Tuggle of San Antonio who had been hired by the City of Hallettsville to draw up plans for the new library building. Mr. Tuggle presented his plans and specifications for the building. They were approved by the board and would be presented to the City Council for their final approval.
At the September 3, 1964 library board meeting, Mrs. Emmett Busch applied for the librarian position. Busch stated that she would resign from the Library Board if her application was approved. Mrs. Busch was selected the librarian.
On September 8, 1964, bids for the construction of the new library were opened. Due to the fact that only two bids had been received and that both were well above the anticipated costs, all bids were rejected.
Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Simpson Sr. volunteered to contribute toward these higher costs, as much as $5,000.00, if the City would complete the building and equipment as originally planned and specified, with minor alterations. On this basis, the City re-advertised for bids and on January 15, 1965 accepted a bid of $42,870.00 with the Bohlmann Brothers of Schulenburg, Texas.
Groundbreaking took place on Monday, February 8, 1965 at 4:15 p.m.
On March 20, 1966, the Friench Simpson Memorial Library was dedicated and opened to the public. The library was named for Friench Simpson (1848 – 1923) local lawyer, banker, author, state senator and the father of J.H. Simpson Sr.
705 East 4th St.
Hallettsville, TX 77964
Phone: 361-798-3243, ext. 208
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