No shushing! Library is 50!

Diboll’s love affair with its library began in the early 1900s. T.L.L. Temple founded Diboll in 1894, and a few years later his Southern Pine Lumber Company built a guesthouse known as “The Library.” The Temple Family and company officials were often regular visitors to this house. On the bottom floor was a large living room. At one end were bookshelves lined with books for guests to read.
Mrs. Fannie Farrington, the pioneer lady from St. Louis, who Temple convinced to come to Diboll in the late 1890s to help establish a community and bring culture to the area, managed the book collection. There was no public circulation. Dibollians had access to a public library when in 1934, Lufkin’s Kurth Memorial Library opened its facilities to Angelina County residents, and under the direction of the late librarian, Ora McMullen, book stations were established in outlying communities, including Diboll.
As Diboll’s population grew, the need for a library to circulate books to readers grew. Arthur Temple Jr. recognized the need and started the wheels rolling toward the creation of a Diboll library. In February 1960, Lantane’ Temple, then vice president of Southern Lumber Company, (later Temple-Inland), secured a small 12’ x 12’ frame building from the company, and set it up in an area just off the Village Square. About 1,200 books were first given and processed under the direction of Jonney McCall, Julia Schinke and Mae Love by housewives, secretaries, teachers or anyone else who could spare the time.
In February 1961, the Friends of the Diboll Library was organized at the urging of James L. (Jim) Love. This group raised $800, which would become the library’s first operating budget. In April 1961, the library’s sponsoring group, the Diboll Booster Club, appointed a 10-member Library Board to oversee its operations. James Love was elected chairman of the board. He and Mae Love brought a wealth of experience with them in helping get the library off to a good start. In Louisiana, James Love served as chairman of the Louisiana State Library, 1953-1957. In Texas he began his term as president of the statewide Friends of Texas Libraries in 1961, the year he was elected board chairman. Mae Love, a degreed librarian, had worked for the New York Public Library and added much expertise to the running of the Diboll library.
The Diboll Booster Club gave the library its money raised from the 1962 Diboll Day activities. This $6,000 became the nucleus for a fund toward a new building. Other monies were raised from within the community, the Temple family and a federal grant. Consequently, the dream of a new building became a reality when, in less than three years, a brand new 4,400-square-foot, $150,000 public library complete with an 80-seat meeting room and a book capacity of 10,000 volumes was opened to the public.
Now known as the T.L.L. Temple Memorial Library, this new facility was officially dedicated on April 25, 1964. Architect John Desmond of Baton Rouge, La., designed the building using locally manufactured products. As a result, Desmond won an award from the Institute of American Architects, and the library won the Texas Library Association Project of the Year in 1968. Temple Associates of Diboll was the builder.
The first Librarian was Gertie Mae Lawrence, who was hired in 1961. She and her husband, Calvin, worked tirelessly to make the library one of the best in the state. Lawrence served in this capacity until her untimely death in 1968. Joy Smith and Mae Love ran the library from that time until 1974 when Mrs. Smith resigned. In June 1974, Brenda Leamons, an MLS-degreed librarian, was hired. Now Brenda Russell, she has remained as librarian until the present, except for a two-year absence when Judy Thompson served as librarian.
From its modest beginning of 1,200 books, the library currently contains more than 48,000 volumes. The first month the library was open, 160 books were checked out. Now, more than 2,500 library materials are checked out to patrons a month.
After 17 years in the original building, the library reached its capacity. To increase book space and create better library accessibility, the Jim and Mae Love North Wing was added in 1981, which added about 2,500 additional square feet. The foyer was connected by a walkway, which also included a lift, thus providing handicap access to the library.
Four years later, the library complex was completed when the beautiful Temple Archives opened in 1985. This new facility would be used for the preservation of historical documents and artifacts of the City of Diboll, the Temple family, the library, and the Temple-Inland company records.
Over the years, numerous activities and services have been provided for library patrons. Technology has created the greatest change in the last 20 years. In January 1994, the library provided its first public Internet access computer. Local and state grants enabled the library to set up a Technology Center that provided two computers for the physically challenged; six computers for adults; four computers for the teens; and two computers for the children.
In mid-October 2001, the library became fully automated using the Athena circulation system. This technology has really opened the doors for everyone. The library has since upgraded from Athena to InfoCentre so that it could link to the Diboll school district. This connection will benefit the students of the area in the months to come.
In May 2003 the Archives Department moved into a new $2 million facility located at 102 N. Temple Drive. Known as “The History Center,” this building will become a great community asset for all to enjoy for years to come.
After the death of Virginia Nelson, longtime board member and supporter of the library, the Nelson girls gave their parents’ home and property to the library. For two years, the library used this home as a meeting room and children’s activity center. Because of moisture and mildew problems, the home had to be torn down. Redesign plans were begun for the property.
Claude Welch, attorney in Lufkin, came before the Library Board wanting to do some type of memorial to his friend and buddy, Judge John Hannah Jr., who had just passed away. The board decided it was time to do a strategic plan for the library. With the help of a consultant, Sheila Ross Henderson, director of the Pasadena Public Library, that was provided by the Houston Area Library System, a plan was devised. During this planning, a community survey was done, mostly through the efforts of the Library Board.
The town spoke and the Board listened. As a result, after architectural plans were done by Malcom McKinley of Goodwin Lasiter and a building fund started, the library entered into a multi-million-dollar building project in the fall of 2007.
Kingham Construction of Nacogdoches was the builder and Tamesha Root from Scott & Strong of Lufkin was the interior designer for this project. Part of this 7,724 square foot expansion was the Judge John Hannah, Jr. Reading Room along with a beautiful 2,300-square-foot Community room for all to enjoy.
During the building project, the library had to move to a temporary building at 800 N. Temple so that disruptions for the library and the construction people would be minimal. During the move the library lost the backup to the circulation system. As a result all 30,000 book titles at the time and 5,000 patron cards had to be re-entered into the system. That was quite a job. The staff managed, and kept the library going, did some programming, and even wrote 65 grants that year for funding of the project.
In mid-November 2008 the library moved back into its newly renovated 14,108-square-foot building. Many volunteers helped make this all possible, along with Denum Moving Company. What was interesting was that Denum had never moved a library. This was a new experience for everyone, but by the second move, everyone knew what to do.
In January 2009 the library re-opened to the public full time for all to enjoy! Library users were then able to have access to 18 public computers; more book space for new resources; new databases; a new Web site; plus more parking outside along with a beautiful new landscape for everyone to enjoy.
The library and History Center have become the focal points of the community. It has been five years since the renovation was completed. In the last five years, the library has gone back to doing what it does best – programming. Most of the library programs take place in the community room. The Board voted to honor Ellen & Buddy Temple by naming the community room the Ellen & Buddy Temple Community Room. These two wonderful people were instrumental in getting the renovation. For that, the library staff and supporters are grateful.
The architects for this renovation, Goodwin-Lasiter Inc., won the Texas Forest Association’s Excellence in Wood Design Award in 2009. The 2010 Long-Sullivan Award was presented to Ken Jones, lead architect on the renovation project from Architects Goodwin-Lasiter Inc.
The highlight of the library’s recent programming has been the “Discover Earth” exhibit hosted January through March 2012. The TLL Temple Memorial Library was the only library in Texas to get this exhibit, and nearly 5,000 people either visited and/or attended the special programs we held. Right after this exhibit came out, “Discover Tech” was launched. The library could not apply for that one; however, now that the tour is officially over the library will be hosting “Discover Tech” between November 2014 and January 2015. This will be an exciting time for all age levels. Many more new programs are being planned for late 2014-2015 so watch for future announcements.
The library’s new mission statement is to enhance the quality of life for area residents by providing access to print, non-print and online resources and programs that support lifelong learning and the love of reading. That is what we focus on when we plan programs so that everyone’s life can be enriched.
The library and archives continue to be part of our ever-changing community in serving the greatest asset – the library users.
The library is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday; from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.library front