PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

December 16, 2013

Nederland Library celebrates 80 years

Mary Meaux
The Port Arthur News

NEDERLAND — Nederland residents have long since held a love for the written word.

The need for books was always there, beginning with the immigrants who traveled from Holland in the late 1890’s and stayed in the Orange Hotel enjoying its 1,000 book library to the 16,000 square-foot modern facility that houses the Marion and Ed Hughes Public Library today.

Even before the first official library was constructed 80 years ago, there was the Orange Hotel, named after The House of Orange, the royal family in Holland. Later, the Jefferson County Library Bookmobile visited the city twice a week but even that wasn’t enough to satisfy the need so a branch was opened at Morgan’s Dry Cleaners, according to historical information from the library.

“The library facility has changed over the years but having that historic connection to the beginning is awesome,” Victoria Klehn, library director, said. “While I wouldn’t have used the bookmobile back then I appreciate what they were trying to do, to expand horizons.”

December 2013 marks the 80th anniversary of the Nederland Library as well as the 30th anniversary of the Friends of the Nederland Library.

Sonya Willis was the first president of the Friends of the Library group and, at age 75, remembers the small wooden structure at Boston Avenue and 10th Street that served as the first official library and Mrs. C.E. Gibson who served as the librarian.

Willis’ mother and Gibson were friends and on some occasions would allow her daughter to spend some time at the library where she would help the librarian shelve books.

Later Willis would take her own children to the library which by then was at a different location, 1903 Atlanta Ave. The facility there served as a branch of the Jefferson County Library System with the county providing the books and librarian, Barbara Hooks Newberry, and the city maintaining the building and grounds.

By October 1975 the Nederland Public Library became a fully budgeted department of the City of Nederland with a book stock of 15,000 volumes and circulation of 31,000.

Willis and a group of dedicated people got together in the early 1980s to form the Friends group. She confessed the reason behind her love of the library.

“I’ve always really wanted to be a librarian but locally there was no way to get library certification,” Willis said. So, she went to Lamar University and obtained a degree in business.

By the early 1990s Brenda Warren came on board and moved the library into the technological age by automating the circulation and catalog functions and the library became a member of the Houston Area Library Automated Network, or HALAN. This allows the library to subscribe to a number of specialized databases and patrons where then able to dial into the library’s catalog from home.

In late 1995 Klehn entered the picture. A former grocery store/furniture store was donated to the city and library for use as a new facility and the new library, at 2712 Nederland Ave., which was opened in 1998 as the Marian and Ed Hughes Public Library.

Willis praised Klehn for the work she has done to move the library into the modern age.

“I love this library,” Willis said. “We have an outstanding director who’s brought our library a long way in her tenure.”

While speaking Klehn brought out a stack of note cards that were once used by Newberry to chronicle the history of the library. Klehn has plans to digitize the note cards so they may be shared by all.”

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews