Yvonne McNease of Welsh looks at a scrapbook documenting the history of Jefferson Davis Parish libraries on Wednesday during a reception marking 40 years of the McBurney Memorial Library at its current location on South Sarah Street in Welsh. The library was first located in the Welsh City Hall. (Doris Maricle / American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 10:00 AM
WELSH — Jefferson Davis Parish Library Director Linda LeBert-Corbello has fond memories of visiting the public library in her hometown as a young girl.
“I vividly remember walking into the Welsh City Hall to the back of the building where the books were kept,” she said. “I remember the smell of that room like it was yesterday. ... Wonderful smell of books, lots of books.”
LeBert-Corbello recalled those memories Wednesday as she helped McBurney Memorial Library celebrate 40 years at its location on South Sarah Street.
Back then, children were allowed to check out only two books, she said.
“Being one of seven siblings gave us an edge in that we would often share the books with each other after reading our own,” she said.
A free public library in Welsh became a reality even after a parishwide tax failed in 1927, she said.
“Many people thought all hope was lost for a free library,” she said.
In 1929, Essae M. Culver, executive secretary of the Louisiana Library Commission, and J.O. Modisette, president of the Louisiana Library Commission and a Jennings lawyer, came to Welsh to offer assistance, she said.
“A decision was made that if Welsh could provide a fund that would maintain a library, the Louisiana Library Commission would send 500 loaned volumes to serve as Welsh’s first public and free library,” she said.
According to historical records, the town board agreed to a 1-mill reduction on other taxes so as not to raise anyone’s taxes. Those efforts resulted in a fund of $900 a year to pay the librarian and buy new books and magazines.
The library was opened in February 1930 with 500 books on loan from the State Library Commission. During the first year, 3,462 adult books and 3,342 children’s books were checked out, according to records.
LeBert-Corbello was 8 years old when the library was moved to the home economics buildings in June 1959.
“The new library became my new favorite,” she said. “It seemed like a real house of books. We still walked to the library. Sometimes, my older sisters would be the ones to walk us to the library on those very hot summer days. I can still feel the hot blacktop road against my feet and the hot stones and rails along the railroad tracks.
“The new building must have meant more books because I can remember thinking, ‘How will I ever read all of these books?’ ”
She remembers spending one summer reading every biography in a series that were blue-green with red lettering for the titles.
In 1968, the Welsh library became part of the parish library system.
Mrs. A.R. McBurney was one of the first members of the library board.
The library was later rebuilt at its current location after former Mayor Jimmy Martin and the Police Jury agreed that the Welsh council would donate the site for the library, if the parish would take over payments, which would decrease each year and be paid off within 10 years.
The current building was built for $80,000 and was financed by 60 percent of federal monies secured by the Police Jury. The remaining 40 percent was donated by Mrs. A.R. McBurney as a memorial to her late husband and her son, Dr. William McBurney.
The building was built on the corner section of the property with plans to tie in with the construction of a Welsh Civic Center.
The building was renovated in 2010.
Last year, 11,527 items were checked out of McBurney Library.