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Alice J. Rhoades

WPA STATEWIDE LIBRARY PROJECT. The Works Progress Administration Statewide Library Project in Texas was one of the largest of such state programs nationwide, totaling 2.8 percent of all WPA spending in Texas. The undertaking began in August 1935, when state WPA administrator H. P. Drought and state women's work consultant Mary K. Taylor sent a letter to all Texas district directors outlining the requirements for establishing WPA work-relief projects in Texas libraries. Within the first two years of operation, projects were started in 748 school libraries and forty-two public libraries, including the opening of 289 libraries and thirty-three mobile units. In existing libraries, WPA personnel helped expand existing service. At its height the program employed more than 2,000 people in more than 1,500 locations and extended library service to an estimated 150,000 people. In August 1937 the Texas State Library sponsored the reorganization of the separate library projects into the WPA Statewide Library Project. Texas was divided into twelve administrative districts under the supervision of librarian Arthur Ray Curry. Under Curry's direction, the focus of the program shifted from mending and rebinding to public service. The project demonstrated the value of government aid in promoting state and local library service. From 1937 to 1940 the project established 651 school libraries and 422 public libraries. Between 1935 and 1943 the number of county libraries doubled to thirty and that of bookmobiles increased from two to thirty-two. More than 7,000 new volumes were acquired, and between 1938 and 1940 that number doubled. Demonstration collections donated by the Texas State Library were sent to county libraries for a year at a time to promote public demand for library service. The WPA also provided some of the first public library services for blacks in many nonurban areas, employing fifty-nine black library workers at fifty-two rural locations. After the fall of France in June 1940, the libraries began to concentrate on supplying information related to the war effort, and many of the smaller projects closed down and moved their books to military centers. Bonnie F. McAfee became state supervisor in November 1941. The WPA Library Project in Texas, which had a great impact in the state, ended in late 1942. Library service in 1938, which had reached only 45 percent of the population, was far below the national average. The program, designed to create a demand for libraries and generate more local support for them, did improve library service in the state, building the foundations for cooperation between school and public libraries and bringing service to areas that had never before had free libraries. See also WORK PROJECTS ADMINISTRATION.

Jane Rogers, "The WPA Statewide Library Project in Texas," Texas Libraries 34 (Winter 1972). Jane Warner Rogers, WPA Professional and Service Projects in Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1976).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Alice J. Rhoades, "WPA STATEWIDE LIBRARY PROJECT," accessed July 05, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/lbw05.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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