When Andrew Carnegie made his great contribution to New Orleans Public Library, he referred to the public library institution as "the University of the People." Ever since, the educational role has been one of NOPL's most important functions. As a place for individual and independent study, as a significant adjunct to primary, secondary, and higher schools of learning, and as a provider of both informal and formal instruction, the Library has done much to further the education of generations of New Orleanians.

Cover of the Free University of New Orleans class schedule for the 1975 fall semester.

A grateful graduate of the Learning Center sent this card to thank the staff for its work on her behalf and to encourage other students to stay with the program.

An example of the booklists that New Orleans Public Library used to provide guidance to prospective teachers during the early part of this century.

The Library used book displays such as this one as a means to inform users of materials suitable for self study.

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]

The Library was, and still is, an important source for individuals to learn about employment opportunities and job requirements. In 1946, NOPL instituted an "Occupation Nook" filled with books dealing with employment and job training. The innovation caught the attention of E.P. Dutton & Co., which made use of the nook concept in its national advertising.

The position of the public library among the institutions of the city is one of greatest possible importance. It is the university whose doors are open to all. It is, if properly managed by the board, the chief corner-stone in the system of public education. When sufficient funds have been provided at least a third of its work will be in connection with children who are at the public schools or are of school age. There will be , in consequence, a close connection with the teachers of the public schools. [Annual Report, 1896-1898, p. 3]

In Spring of 1974, NOPL's Juvenile Activities Committee presented an opportunity for local parents to learn about children's books and other materials suitable for the younger reader.

After a conference with the teachers of the Public Normal School, I selected and set aside for the special use of the students of that institution a reference library on pedagogy and such other books as their teachers recommend for study in addition to the text-books of the regular curriculum. [Annual Report, 1907, p. 11]

NOPL's Foreign Language Division presented English classes for Spanish speakers, ca. 1975.

The work with the pupils of the colleges and schools, public, private and denominational, has also been more satisfactory than even the excellent work of last year. The large amount of parallel reading and reference work required by these institutions has compelled most of the students to rely entirely on the library for their material. [Annual Report, 1912, p. 7]

The Helen Adler Levy auditorium at Central Library during registration for a semester of the Free University of New Orleans during the early 1970s.

We have, through the courtesy and with the aid of Superintendent Gwinn and the principals and teachers of the Normal and the High Schools, done much work to make the library more useful to the schools. We have included in this work the conducting of classes for the pupils that will enable them to use satisfactorily every department of our library. I have attended meetings of the grade teachers and have sought their assistance in bringing the library to the attention of the grammar grade students. I have endeavored to return the courtesy of the school officials by assisting them in the "Stay in School Campaign," and have spoken in all parts of the city in furtherance of this work. [Annual Report, 1914-1915, p. 7]

The Free University of New Orleans played an important role in offering local women opportunities to become aware of the changing gender patterns of the mid-1970s. Women's Nights such as the one advertised on this poster were one element of the FUNO's initiative for women.

The head of the Stacks Department reports that while throughout a large part of the country a strongly organized movement has been instituted for the education of adults that, without any organized effort to effect it, there is decided evidence that our adult readers are far more than ever appreciating the opportunity for study and the more or less systematic educational facilities furnished by the Library. This feature of library life and opportunity stands out strongly in the records of our work during the year. [Annual Report, 1924, p. 10]

Experts and practitioners in many fields lent their expertise to the Free University of New Orleans. One of these volunteer teachers was the late Everette Maddox, a talented local poet.

We do our best to meet the demands of the profound student, the partially educated adult, the adult beginning his education late in life, the craftsman and artisan seeking to improve his quality of work and to advance himself in his occupation, the students of all grades of school, the general cultured reader, the general reader seeking recreation, and the reader whose capacity is much limited by environment, lack of opportunity or personal limitations. [Annual Report, 1926, p. 7]

The variety of educational opportunities made available through FUNO is well illustrated in this excerpt from the list of teachers and courses for the 1979-1980 term.

With the cooperation of the teachers, the Public Library is doing a tremendous amount of work through the schools. About 100,000 books were loaned to pupils of the public schools during the year. Parochial and private schools are also using many library books. High schools, colleges and universities send hundreds of pupils to the public library to get books for supplemental reading and also to use the Reference Department. [Annual Report, 1931, p. 8]

The care that FUNO teachers took in planning their course offerings is demonstrated in this proposal for a class dealing with Middle Eastern affairs.

By 1981, NOPL had taken over full responsibility for the Free University of New Orleans, its students, and its teachers.

The public library today has become one of the most promising agencies of education--an agency of popular education for youths and adults who wish to acquire and add to their store of knowledge in an informal, easy way, for practical as well as cultural purposes. [Annual Report, 1937, p. 11]

Many of the programs offered at NOPL over the years have had a definite educational purpose. The Crescent City Kaleidoscope session described in this flyer is one example of such programming.

At the invitation of Miss Alice Cobb, Specialist in English for the Orleans Parish School Board, the Library has participated in a newly organized remedial reading program for the public high schools. [Annual Report, 1943, p. 11]

One of a series of posters used by NOPL to advertise its role as an educational resource for the local business community.

The library expanded its efforts to improve literacy in New Orleans by continuing its partnership with Operation Mainstream. We donate materials and work space for Operation Mainstream tutors and maintain a collection in the Orleans Parish Prison Literacy Center to help enhance its program. [Annual Report, 1988, p. 2]

This memo records a meeting, held late in 1985, that helped put the New Orleans Public Library on the road to becoming a key provider of literacy services in the Crescent City.

Invitation to the opening of the Learning Center in 1990.

One of the goals of the New Orleans Public Library Board of Directors is to improve the educational standards of the citizens of New Orleans. Therefore, in February 1990, the library and its Board opened the Learning Center, a computerized self-instructional program that teaches reading, writing, and mathematics to adults, and English as a Second Language to non-English speakers. The Main Library houses the Center. [Annual Report, 1990, p. 6]

Opening day at the Learning Center with program director Wilma Devoe demonstrating the new computer equipment to visiting dignitaries.

In cooperation with the Crescent City Health Care Center, the Library presented a Long Term Care Educational Forum. Topics covered included older adult illnesses, hospital discharge planning, and the nursing home selection process. Henry Rothschild, MD, Ph.D., spoke on "Depression in Older Persons." The video How to Choose a Nursing Home was shown. Mary Wendt, BCSW, explained the hospital discharge planning process and answered questions from the audience. [Annual Report, 1993, p. 8]

Registration notice for the new Learning Center in 1990.

The Children's Room supplied 80 teachers from 29 schools, 8 parochial, and 2 private schools, while Dryades Branch supplied 32 teachers from 9 schools. These [classroom book] collections numbered some 30-50 books each, and they constitute perhaps the Public Library's most tangible contribution to the teachers of New Orleans and the formal program of the schools. [Annual Report, 1947, p. 11]

The educational programs of the Library's Learning Center are advertised in this flyer.

Increasing numbers of people are turning to the Library for opportunities of informal education. Great Books Discussion Groups entered their fifth year, and some 500 members were participating in 14 separate units. National recognition was given the local program by the Great Books Foundation, with the appointment of a part-time field worker to promote the project within the framework of the New Orleans Public Library. [Annual Report, 1951]

Wilma Devoe and a Learning Center student hard at work.

The public library today has become one of the most prominent agencies of education--an agency of popular education for youths and adults who wish to acquire and add to their store of knowledge in an informal, easy way, for practical as well as cultural purposes. [Annual Report, 1937, p. 11]

Teacher Joan O'Connor tends to the needs of one of the Learning Center students.

A close relationship has continued with the schools, particularly the elementary and high schools. The remedial reading program sponsored by the Orleans Parish School Board, under the direction of Miss Alice Cobb, has been particularly productive of collaboration between the two systems. During the winter and spring months a series of meetings were held with members of the Library staff, the English teachers of the high schools, and the high school librarians for the purpose of discussing reading problems and techniques. [Annual Report, 1944, p. 8]

Learning Center students work independently on the facility's computers while Ismenia Mitry prepares materials for instructional use.

The Department has been rather active this year in sponsoring and organizing a class in Braille, in cooperation with the State Division for the Blind and Sight Conservation of the Louisiana Department of Public Welfare.... The class is open to all who are blind or near blind. Special attention is given to the newly blinded as they are guided through their difficult period of readjustment by being taught to read with their fingers--thus increasing their sense of touch and self-confidence. The class is primarily made up of service men blinded in this war. [Annual Report, 1945, p. 19]

One of the innovative features of the Broad Branch was the Life Skills Learning Center. Unfortunately, the program was suspended in 1995 due to budget shortfalls.

Dr. Cresap Watson, professor emeritus University of New Orleans, who specializes in technical writing, presented a 4-session Resume Writing seminar at the Algiers Regional Branch. Objectives of the seminar included helping the participants produce effective resumes and cover letters while teaching them to realistically assess their background and experience. [Annual Report, 1990, p. 5]