The Library Began In 1907 by Eloise Lane
The beginning of a library for Pampa occurred in January, 1907, when a group of literary-minded women met to organize “The Ladies’ Library Club.” Mrs. W.R. Beydler was elected president of the organization which included Mmes. W.R. Beydler, J.H. Boge, C.P. Buckler, J.E. Chapman, J.T. Clagett, J.T. Crawford, Oscar Cousins, Edna Davis, Lettie Davis, T.D. Hobart, A.A. Holland, T.H. Lane, Claude Ledrick, C.H. Mullin, E.A. Shackleton, Harley Talley, J.W. Talley, G.W. Tinsley, H.M. Thomas, Georgia Vincent, Katie Vincent, W.T. Wilks, J.S. Wynne and Miss Bessie Warren (Mrs. B.E. Finley).
Mrs. Hobart, Wilks, Cole and Katie Vincent served on the committee to draft the first by-laws for the library group.
The club met in the basement of the First National Bank building and also in the homes of members. On one occasion when Katie Vincent was hostess, her husband Wiley went to the fields and returned with several watermelons so that the women could have a watermelon feast on the lawn in front of the Vincent home (the pioneer cottage which at that time was in the 501 block of East Browning). Not only did Wiley provide for possibly the first lawn party held in Pampa , but he also baby-sat with the Vincent children while the club meeting was in session.
The club members gave ice cream socials, spelling bees and engaged in other activities, such as giving plays and cantatas, to buy books for the library. Sometimes the women obtained permission from merchants to have the entertainments on sidewalks in front of stores.
A library, established on the second floor of the bank building, was open two afternoons a week. Since the club could not afford a regular librarian, the women took turns acting as librarian with Beryl Wynne (Mrs. De Lea Vicars) being the second librarian.
The club was the center of social activities until schools and churches were organized and began to grow. The club then divided the approximate 700 books among the churches and schools.
The last entertainment given by the club was a book-play in which each member of the cast represented a book. Lottie Sills (Mrs. Alex Schneider, Jr.), who represented Black Beauty, rubbed black chalk on her face and almost ruined her “schoolgirl complexion.” She was unable to remove the black chalk for more than a week.
As early as 1910, at the suggestion of T.D. Hobart, funds were donated to the “library at Pampa ” by the London proprietors of the White Deer Land Company. On February 18, 1928, civic-minded women of various clubs and organizations met at the home of Mrs. James Todd, Jr. to begin a library association.
The association established a library which occupied one shelf in one room of the First Methodist Church. On January 8, 1932, the Pampa Library Association transferred the title of all library equipment to the City of Pampa for a consideration sufficient to pay off the incurred debts of the association.
Five days later, the first meeting of the Pampa Public Library Board was held in the city hall. The board established a library on the second floor of the city hall and later moved it to the southeast corner of the basement where it expanded to include the entire south half of that floor. For some time, Mrs. Todd, wife of the minister of the First Christian Church, was the librarian.
On January 18, 1955, dedication ceremonies were held for the Lovett Memorial Library building erected at the present location, 111 North Houston. The structure, a gift to Gray County and the City of Pampa, was funded through the estate, left in trust, of pioneers Henry and Fannie Lovett whose home was at the location. Dr. Godfrey L. Cabot, head of the Cabot companies, gave the library a $60,000 endowment for book purchases.
Since its opening, the Lovett Memorial Library has continued to provide an increasing number of opportunities for cultural growth, research and continuing education.
Across the alley west of the Lovett Memorial Library is the remaining part of the only water well in Pampa when “The Ladies’ Library Club” was organized in 1907. The story of E.F. and Dulcie Young, who came to Pampa that year, relates that there were only 75 buildings in Pampa and that there were no lights, no plumbing, no water and no fences.
The Lovett Memorial Library was built on the entire west half of the 100 block of North Houston Street. The building was dedicated on January 18, 1955.
In 1985, the Harrington Foundation of Amarillo paid for the computerization of library records, joining the library for the first time into a consortium with most of the public libraries in the Panhandle.
By the mid-1990’s Lovett Library was showing its age, and it was furthermore not compliant with the Americans for Disabilities Act. In October 1995 it was announced that Mrs. Ruth Ann Holland has left $500,000 to the Library Foundation in her will. In 1996 the Lovett Library Foundation, which managed the Holland bequest and several other substantial bequests. announced that a plan was being made to extensive renovate the old building. In January 1998 the library staff along with all books and much equipment moved from the Houston Street facility to the old B. M. Baker school on the south side, where the library was set up in the cafeteria and classroom annex in the south part of the school complex.
This freed the old building on Houston Street for renovation. The children’s area was moved to the second floor; a bridge was built between the second floor facility and other children’s rooms in the south part of the building’ and was installed; new shelves, lighting, and ceiling tiles were installed; and the building was made completely ADA compliant.
In June 2003 it was announced that R. L. Franklin, prominent rancher of Pampa, would donate two statues to the library to honor the 50th anniversary of the opening of the building in January 1955. One statue, by Don Ray of Channing, represents a seated woman reading to a child; this is erected in front of the library. Another statue representing a Pioneer Woman was by David Frech of New York; this was placed in the library’s Reading Garden. Both Statues were dedicated to four local women, including the donor’s mother, each of whom had a long involvement with the library. The statues were dedicated on January 9, 2005, and at one of the dedicatory events the author Elmer Kelton was the guest speaker.
In 2014 the Pampa Lovett Memorial Library Foundation replaced the tile flooring and repainted the inside and outside of the library. In 2015 they replaced the Circulation Desk. In 2017 they had a glass partition installed around the children’s area and then had window shades installed.
Friends of the Library, with the help of library staff member John Mead, had the City Directories digitalized in 2016 with a grant from the Oklahoma State prisons; they also digitalized the Pampa High School Yearbooks. Through a grant from the Southwest Collection in Lubbock, back issues of the Pampa Daily News were digitalized. A link to all of the above can be found on the library’s website.