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Library science binds new and old

The new Keller Library is about more than mere books. (Photo by Mary Lou Atkinson)

Coffee, tea or read?

As you enter the just-opened Rosa F. Keller Library in Broadmoor, turn right for the Green Dot Café; turn left for books, periodicals and public computers. You’ll find a choice of seating in either direction.

Keller Library, where Napoleon Avenue curves into South Broad Street, is the first of five new New Orleans public library branches set to open by the end of summer 2012. All are state-of-the-art facilities, which means that books are only part of the mix, not the complete package.

With lots of light and open space, green features (Keller has two parking spots reserved for low-emission and fuel-efficient vehicles), large meeting rooms and distinctive artworks, the new-since-Katrina libraries are in step with the latest technology and library trends.

However, there’s a New Orleans bounce in that step. We can embrace the new, but we don’t discard all of the old.

Keller – officially the Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center – is part sleek new structure and part restored 1917 bungalow. The historic house, which not long ago was a private home, will serve as the community center.

The Latter Library once housed … cows and chickens? (Photo by Mary Lou Atkinson)

Just two miles away is another historic home-turned-library and meeting place, which remains open as post-storm renovations continue. This is the Milton H. Latter Memorial Library, 5120 St. Charles Ave., which boasts its own unique back story.

“This building was once the stately mansion for a noted turn-of-the-century family, an elegant retreat for a silent-screen star” – Marguerite Clark – “and a festive center for week-long parties,” according to a leaflet available at the library’s entrance.

Set in an entire city square of ground, the mansion was built in 1907 for Mr. and Mrs. Marks Isaacs, who owned a department store. In addition to the Isaacs family, the property housed “12 servants, a cow, lots of chickens and dogs, and one of the first automobiles in New Orleans.”

These days, in addition to library books, the mansion is home to a sewing circle (Sew Hip NOLA, which meets the second Wednesday of every month from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and the third Saturday from noon to 3 p.m.), monthly meetings of the New Orleans Haiku Society (third Monday, 6 to 7:30 p.m.), and Sunday movie matinees (second and third Sundays, 2 p.m.).

For information on these and other free activities at all local libraries and a schedule of 2012 branch openings, check out the New Orleans public library Web site at, where you can read all about it.

Mary Lou Atkinson offers observations on the art of living in New Orleans whenever the spirit moves her, for NolaVie. For more information on NolaVie, visit




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