Library history recalled at anniversary event

By Phil Major
Posted 3/23/23

At Saturday’s celebration for the 63rd anniversary of the Mineola Memorial Library, patrons learned the library almost never happened, and was an idea first dreamed more than a century …

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Library history recalled at anniversary event


At Saturday’s celebration for the 63rd anniversary of the Mineola Memorial Library, patrons learned the library almost never happened, and was an idea first dreamed more than a century ago.

Jeff Hurley presented the library’s story after digging through its archives.

He’s also the husband of librarian Mary Hurley, one of seven to hold that post.

The event marked the opening of the library in its present location March 13, 1960.

It had been around for a decade prior to that, though the idea was first hatched by Vivian Williams Lott in 1913, when she was a young teacher.

In the early 1940s she learned that federal grants were available to secure a place for a library.

The city was building a new city hall and promised a small area to house books.

But the grant required the facility to be in the county seat.

Finally in 1949 the school district dedicated an unused room at the junior high to host a library, which was formally formed in a public meeting in January 1950.

County support was sought but declined, so all the funds to support it were raised locally.

There was a book donation drive and talent show, and in May 1950 an open house was held for the 600-book collection.

More than 1,000 more were added in the first year. Mrs. H.C. Chapel was hired as the first librarian for 75 cents an hour.

In 1955 the school needed the room, so quarters were found in the Reneau building on S. Johnson and later in a store front on N. Johnson.

The first had issues with rats while the second had a cricket problem.

A campaign for a permanent home began in 1958 and raised nearly $15,000.

The Judge family trust was involved, and the Judge family went to visit banker Harry Meredith whose generous donations for the Waco children’s home were well-known, but nothing of significance locally.

They convinced Meredith to support the library, and he put up $50,000, which led to the formation of the Meredith Foundation, which supports numerous enterprises in the city today, with donations surpassing $1 million a year.

The Judges also convinced Adolphus McDaniel to sell the prime property where the library is located today at N. Pacific and Blair.

A 70x70 building was constructed and deeded to the city with the stipulation that it offer support of $2,500 per year.

It opened in March 1960. Meredith was given a gold key to the library, an artifact that was later donated to the library and whose whereabouts are being sought.

A wing was added in 1971, which houses what Jeff Hurley described as one of the best genealogy sections in East Texas.

A non-profit was formed in 1974, and in 1979, with the city’s support dwindling due to its financial condition, the 90-day clause was invoked and the library reverted to private ownership.

The Meredith Foundation agreed to support the operations, and it remains in operation today with no financial support from any government entity.

Hurley pointed out that while the library has 46,000 items, it can access “the combined knowledge of the entire world” through its computers, which patrons use for numerous tasks, including finding employment.

The library has also been at the forefront of social justice, noting in the board minutes from 1954 that any and all Negroes who wish to have membership will be welcomed without restrictions.

Hurley noted that the library once hosted a Tasting Bee. This year a restaurant week was held in support of the library, and board chairman Lou Steele said there will be another held next year, bigger and better.