A Glimpse of History

Pearl River County Agricultural High School opened its doors to students in 1909 with a very limited budget for books and supplies.  For the next twelve years the books for reading were obtained as gifts from friends of education.  There was no definite assigned place to house them so they were kept in the various classrooms.

Through the efforts of some influential citizens of the county, the Board of Trustees, and Supt. J.A. Huff, the school applied for junior college status and received it in 1922. The first order of 230 books costing $341.65 was approved by the board on April 4, 1922.  More books were purchased the following year. On January 8, 1924, Mr. J.A. Huff was instructed to buy a set of New International Encyclopedias for the school, the first set of its kind to be owned by the Pearl River County Agricultural High School and Junior College.

Since the school had received junior college status, the people in authority were looking to higher goals. Ms. Bessie Loughridge, the first librarian for the school, was hired for the session of 1926-1927.  At the time of her arrival in September, the school had accumulated 725 volumes.  She spent that year in classifying, cataloging, and accessioning the books as the procedure had not been done prior to this time.

On December 7, 1926, the Board of Trustees authorized Supt. S.L. Stringer to take all steps necessary to meet requirements to secure full membership in the All-Southern Association of Junior Colleges.  At this time the library was given a permanent location which was a small room upstairs in the High School Administration Building.  At the board meeting in April, 1927, the Trustees authorized the superintendent to buy more books and the necessary equipment to establish an accredited library.  These purchases and plans were completed during the summer of that year.

The depression brought lean years to schools and especially to libraries.  In 1929 Mr. E.B. Ferris of Picayune, Mississippi, sold his private collection to the college for a sum of $92.00.  Some of these books remained on the library shelves for many years.  At the end of the above year, the librarian had built the collection to 3,225 volumes.

Salaries of the librarian, as well as the other teachers, were decreased during the depression years. However, Ms. Loughridge remained at her post until her untimely death, caused by a bus wreck, in 1937.

By October, 1938, the library had acquired 3,577 volumes and was subscribing to twenty-one magazines. During this year no librarian was secured, so it was the duty of the English teachers to take on the added responsibility of the library.  In 1939, Ms. Henrietta Thomae was elected to the position which she held until 1943. The inventory in May, 1943, showed that the holdings had increased to 4,700 volumes. Following the resignation of Ms. Thomae, Ms. Margaret Snowden was chosen to take her place. At the end of the year in 1944, Ms. Snowden received the position of librarian at one of the Naval Stations in California.  Ms. Mary Lily Blackmarr was elected to fill her position for the next year.  Ms. Blackmarr served as librarian until July, 1945, at which time her husband returned from overseas duty, and she went to join him.

During the spring of 1945 the Board of Trustees authorized the school authorities to remove the seats from the high school auditorium and replace them with tables and chairs, incident to converting the auditorium into the library.  The stage was removed and the space was converted into a classroom.  After this work was finished, the library was moved from a small side room into the auditorium, now having a seating capacity of 96 students at any given time. In the fall of the year, a librarian had not been secured so Ms. R. L. Johnson, the coach's wife, was called upon to relieve the situation.

Immediately after World War II Camp McCain was closed and Camp Shelby was cut to only skeleton personnel. Books from both of the camps' libraries were distributed among the schools of the state.  Pearl River County Agricultural High School and Junior College received its share of those that were suitable for the students.

From 1946-1948 Ms. Corrie Bunch who was later acquisition librarian at the University of Southern Mississippi, served as librarian.  After her resignation, the Board of Trustees elected Ms. May Rogers, who remained at the school through the session of 1951-52.  In order to extend library services to the students, in 1949 the Board asked that the library be kept open two hours each night during the week.  Through the aid of student help the librarian was able to do this.  At the close of the session in 1951, the holdings had increased to 6,451 volumes.

Ms. Rogers resigned at the end of the session in 1952, and Ms. Dean Griffin was selected to take her place.  She remained at the college for a period of two years. In 1954 Ms. Mildred James was elected to the position.  At the end of the session in 1955, the library holdings had climbed to 7,162 volumes with a yearly budget of approximately $4,000.

In 1960 Ms. Hazel Polk replaced Ms. James as she had resigned to take a public library position in Louisiana. That same year, the last two years of high school were moved to the Poplarville High School, so the college took the name of Pearl River Junior College. Since that time the librarians have dealt with books only on the college level.

Because of illness in 1964, Ms. Polk had to resign as librarian.  The school was fortunate in securing the services of Ms. Mildred James, who had been librarian prior to the time served by Ms. Polk.  Since the Southern Association of Junior Colleges in their evaluation had recommended new library facilities for the college, the administration began to look for ways to receive help in this area.  In 1965 Pearl River College was able to receive library grants as well as NDEA matching funds to increase the book holdings instructional materials, and equipment needed for the library.  During the school year of 1966-67 the library obtained an electric typewriter, adding machine, microfilm reader, a storage cabinet for microfilm, and an air conditioner.

Also, during this session, Mr. R.D. Ladner an architect from Gulfport, was hired to draw plans fora new Library building.  When the plans were accepted and the bids were let, Seal Construction Company of Bogalusa, Louisiana received the contract as low bidder for $199,362 for the construction of the new library. Within a year it was completed, and 22,000 volumes along with all other materials in the library were moved to its new location.  The spacious one floor building contained 17,000 square feet of space.  The structure seated 250 students at any time, had a large office, working space, periodical room, a carpeted browsing area, two study rooms, and contained both table and chairs and individual study carrels for student use.  The building had central heat and air conditioning as well as stereo music, which was played at the discretion of the librarian.  Beautiful drapes and artificial plants enhanced the beauty of the reading and study area.

In 1969 Ms. James resigned to take the position of public librarian in Poplarville.  Ms. Marguerite Harvey was elected to the position which she held until her retirement in May 1984.  Ms. Melissa Heard served as Circulation Librarian from January 1973 to August 1973.

Disaster struck the area when Hurricane Camille came in 1969.  Much of the glass in both front and back of the library was blown out.  The library lost all current magazines, but luckily no books; half of the ceiling was blown out; the air condition unit was damaged, and most of the furnishings were damaged by water.  Despite all of this, school opened only one week late, making the best of the inconveniences until all repairs could be made.

In 1973, a 5,000 square foot Media Center was added to the Library where students could view filmstrips, listen to records and audio cassettes, or read periodicals and newspapers using microfilm readers and a reader/printer.  Ms. Carolyn Read was the first Media Librarian in this new center.  In 1974 the college added an Assistant Librarian to its staff, Ms. Dorothy McCann.  Ms. Carolyn Read resigned in 1976, and Ms. Jeanne Dyar was hired as the new Media Librarian.  Ms. Marguerite Harvey  retired in 1984, and Ms. Jeanne Dyar replaced her.  Ms. Ann Dauenhauer was selected as the Technical Processing Librarian.

In 1989, the library holdings contained 40,000 books, subscriptions to 331 magazines, seven daily newspapers, six county papers, reels of microfilm, a number of cassette tapes, video tapes, filmstrips and records.  The audiovisual center contained record players, audiocassette and VCR players, monitor/receiver, filmstrip projectors, 16mm projectors, microfilm and microfiche readers, and a microfilm reader. The library also had thirty art prints that were displayed from time to time to enrich the cultural side of the student.  It was staffed by one director, Ms. Jeanne Dyar; one assistant librarian, Ms. Dorothy Jordan; one processing librarian, Ms. Anne Dauenhauer; one library technician, Ms. Lisa Williams; one library assistant, Ms. Billy Smith; and fifteen student workers.  Ms. Cindy Herndon was hired as a library assistant in the Fall of 1990.  Ms. Tracy Smith replaced Ms. Billy Smith in the Fall of 1992.  In 1991 Ms. Dauenhauer retired and Mr. Ketty Spiers was hired as the Systems/Technical Processing Librarian.  In 1994, the college automated the card catalog using SIRSI Corporation’s WebCAT product.  The online catalog provided students access from any computer with Internet access.  In August of 1995 a library was established at the Hattiesburg campus with Ms. Mary Wallace Benson as the Librarian. Ms. Tracy Smith became the Public Services Librarian in August, 2001, when Ms. Dorthy Jordan Garner retired.  In the Fall of 2001 Ms. Eileen Hall was hired as the Public Services library assistant.  Ms. Debbie Huntington was hired in the Summer of 2002 when Mr. Ketty Spiers retired.

In 1990-1991, a 5,000 square foot Learning Laboratory was added to the library.  A Learning Lab Assistant was hired to staff the Lab in the fall of 1991.  The college purchased twelve IBM compatible computers for the lab in the spring of 1992.  The college received a Title III grant in July of 1992 which allowed the addition of a twenty-eight computer station Josten's Invest network to be added to the Learning Lab.  Ms. Dora Mae Estey was hired in October 1992 under the grant to coordinate the lab.  In October, 1993, Ms. Julie Staggs was added to the staff as a Reading/English lab instructor and Ms. Lauri Gagnon was hired as the Mathematics lab instructor with the responsibility of overseeing the computers.  In August, 1994, Ms. Peggy Seligman, a Mathematics instructor at the college, became the Lab Coordinator.  In November, 1994, Ms. Dawn Mabius was hired as the Science/Social Science lab instructor.  Mr. Lonnie Burchell replaced Ms. Mabius in October, 1997.  Ms. Peggy Seligman retired in 2000, and Ms. Julie Pierce began serving as the Lab Coordinator and the English/Reading Lab Instructor.  Jason Ross was hired as the Mathematics Lab Instructor and the System Administrator.  Ms. Karen Bond replaced him in the fall of 2001, and Ms. Jennifer Lee replaced Ms. Bond in the Fall of 2002. A new position of Learning Lab Assistant/Online Testing Proctor was add to the Lab in  January of 2003, and Ms. Nancy Cerniglia was hired to fill this position. In August 2003, Ms. Stephinie Lee was hired as the Science / Social Science Instructor and Ms. Amy Bishop was hired as the Mathmatics / Computer System Administrator in July 2004. Ms. Darlene Gray replaced Ms. Bishop in July 2005, and Ms. Stacy E. Smith replaced Ms. Lee in August 2005.

In September, 1994, the college established a Media Services Department within the Learning Resource Center. Mr. Chris Whooten was hired as the first Media Specialist.  Ms. Sheri Rawls replaced Mr. Wooten as the Media Specialist in November, 1996. Mr. Timmy Brown became the Media Specialist in January 1999, and Ms. Cynthia Graves became the Media Specialist in August 2000.

Disaster struck in the area again when Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29, 2005. The Garvin H. Johnston Library took in water at perimeter walls but luckily lost no books or other materials and only six pieces of equipment. The Forrest County Center Library sustained no damage. The Hancock Center was damaged beyond repair, and the students were moved to the Stennis International Airport to continue classes.The staff returned to work two weeks later, and the college opened for students three weeks after the storm.

The Pearl River Community College Libraries has been able to sufficiently meet the needs of its students. With the expanded growth of the college from year to year, the Department of College Libraries will grow in each type of media to enrich the knowledge of the students.