Please note:   Unlike the other exhibits in our website, this is not a true online exhibit. Only three of the 116 images included in the physical exhibit (in the Louisiana Division, on the third floor of the Main Library) are included here -- just enough to give online viewers a taste of the real thing.

(with apologies—and thanks—to the Beatles!)

On August 26, 2005 the New Orleans Public Library was preparing for a quiet weekend. A successful Summer Reading Program had concluded just two weeks earlier. The East New Orleans Regional Branch had recently closed an exhibit on John Scott’s printmaking. The Library system was looking forward to National Library Card Sign-Up Month, another session of the popular Prime Time Family Reading Time program, and had just issued a press release announcing the annual Langston Hughes Poetry Contest in conjunction with the upcoming Tom Dent Literary Festival. The Main Library was open for business but the system’s twelve branches were closed, as they were every Friday due to the budget constraints that had been plaguing NOPL for many years. In short, New Orleans Public Library was doing its best to provide a variety of services to the people of the Crescent City, just as it had been doing for more than a century.

Within a few short days, though, the New Orleans Public Library, along with the city that it served, was slammed hard by Hurricane Katrina and the floodwaters that followed closely behind. There was to be no Library Card Sign-Up Month, no Prime Time Family Reading Time program at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Branch, no Langston Hughes Poetry Contest, and no Tom Dent Literary Festival. When NOPL staggered back into operation weeks later only three facilities were able to open and there were only nineteen staff members left to operate them. Hours and services were severely limited. There would be no programming during the rest of the year.

Now, in 2006, New Orleans Public Library is rebuilding. We’ve gotten more of our staff back to work, but not nearly enough to provide services at pre-Katrina levels. We were able to celebrate National Library Week and are in the middle of the Summer Reading Program. But the usual Black History Month events did not happen, and there were only a handful of other programs offered during the first half of the year. More than half of our branch buildings remain closed, either destroyed or heavily damaged by Katrina and the flood. We have a long way to go.

Nevertheless, there are positive signs. The NOPL Foundation and the Friends of NOPL have geared up fundraising efforts that are showing early signs of success. The American Library Association conference will provide a big boost to our morale and to our infrastructure. We’re not sure what New Orleans Public Library will be like in ten years or even a year from now. We hope, though, that some day soon all of our facilities will be filled with the kinds of events and activities depicted in the images displayed here. These photographs, most taken over the past 15 years, remind us of what we’ve been doing and where we’ve been. We hope they will help guide us as we work hard to GET BACK TO WHERE WE ONCE BELONGED!

This exhibit was designed and mounted by Irene Wainwright and Wayne Everard, [at that time] the entire staff of NOPL’s Louisiana Division. It is made up of photographs taken by and for the Library’s Community Awareness Office and individual Library branches and divisions.

We thank Southeastern Louisiana University’s Office of Public Information for printing and dry mounting the large images displayed in the Louisiana Division on the three hanging panels.

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Updated 6/20/2006