Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ebooks, Netflix, and Library Building Projects: Part 124, A Short History of the Richard B. Harrison Community Library in Raleigh, North Carolina

Reopening a library, remembering a legacy. (Raleigh News Observer, 11/12/2011)

Excerpt:  On Nov. 12, 1935 a library opened in the Delaney Building on Hargett Street in the heart of the black business district in Raleigh. The library was named for the A&T College drama instructor and Broadway actor Richard B. Harrison and was a one-woman operation, with Mollie Huston Lee as its only employee.

The library opened with a collection of 890 volumes, community pride and high hopes for the future. Service expanded and relocated to South Blount Street in 1948; this expansion enabled Mrs. Lee to build a separate and comprehensive Negro Collection of nearly 1,000 titles, which chronicled the experience of the community.

In August 1965, Richard B. Harrison Library merged with the Olivia Raney Public Library to create the foundation for Wake County Public Libraries. In December 1967, the library relocated to a new state-of-the-art building at 1313 New Bern Ave. with Mrs. Lee remaining at the helm. As a librarian and leader in the profession, Mrs. Lee had a lasting effect on library members, young and old alike, until her retirement in 1972, after 37 years of library service at Richard B. Harrison Community Library.

Dec. 17, 2011 will mark another milestone in the 76-year history of the Richard B. Harrison Public Library when the library reopens to the public after a seven-month renovation.

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