ALA, Highsmith, Bretford unveil renovated New Orleans Public Library branch

Contacts: Larra Clark/Macey Morales

ALA Media Relations


For Immediate Release

June 27, 2006

ALA, Highsmith, Bretford unveil renovated New Orleans

Public Library branch

(NEW ORLEANS) On the penultimate day of the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in New Orleans, ALA volunteers and library service companies Highsmith, Inc., and Bretford will unveil the renovated interior of an historic Carnegie library branch of the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL).

The Children’s Resource Center branch (913 Napoleon Ave.) is one of 13 NOPL buildings, each of which was damaged during Hurricane Katrina. It is currently open on reduced hours with limited staff. With the assistance of hundreds of volunteers from around the country, Highsmith coordinated design and implementation of the renovations, along with furnishings for the library.

Award-winning children’s book illustrator Susan Guevara brought characters from her book “Chato and the Party Animals” to the library in the form of a new mural, and Naturemaker donated a 14-foot steel art oak tree as a centerpiece for the children’s reading room. The renovation also increased the collection up to 33 percent, increased the young adult area and improved the flow of the building.

“We are very excited to be working with Highsmith and Bretford to help New Orleans Public Library and New Orleanians recover from this tragedy,” said ALA President Michael Gorman. “Libraries are vital to families as they struggle to rebuild their lives. People turn to libraries more than ever in a time of crisis.”

Linda Van Den Akker-Landrum volunteered at the library on Friday and Tuesday. A former branch manager of the Children’s Resource Center, Van Den Akker-Landrum now works at the Fairfax County (Va.) Public Library. “I came to this library to support my family and community. I have seven brothers and sisters in the area, and they have been through so much. Although I’ve moved far away, my heart is still in New Orleans,” she said. “I’m astonished and pleased at the changes we have been able to make here in such a short time.”

The library, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is home to the Pebbles Latin American Collection – the largest collection of Latin American children’s books in the metro New Orleans area. The collection was created by the New Orleans Public Library and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University.

“This has been such a moving experience,” said Highsmith Merchandising Director Margaret Sullivan. “It’s been a lot of hard work, but the end result is beautiful. The library is lighter, brighter and warmer – with special spaces created for children, for young adults and for adults. This has been one of the most amazing projects I’ve ever been involved with, and I’m so glad we were able to leave this gift with the children and families of New Orleans that have been through so much in the past year. Throughout the week, I have been struck by the fortitude of New Orleans residents in their efforts to rebuild and their warmth in welcoming us to their city.”

Though named the Children’s Resource Center, the library serves the entire community with computers for children and adults, English-language children’s books, and a small adult fiction collection.

“The New Orleans Public Library system is eager to rebuild our heavily damaged libraries and, in fact, to transform them into a 21st Century community-affirming system,” said Tania Tetlow, chair of the NOPL board of directors. “The type of cooperative effort represented by the Children’s Resource Center ‘extreme makeover’ is just the sort of collaboration that will be necessary for all Gulf Coast library systems to come back strong and continue to serve the communities so dependent upon them – now more than ever.”

For more information on the New Orleans Public Library, including photos of damaged libraries, please visit


American Library Association

ALA is the voice of America’s libraries, and the ALA Annual Conference is the world’s largest library gathering, with about 18,000 librarians, library staff, vendors, authors and guests expected to attend. For more information on the conference, please visit

. To learn more about ALA hurricane relief efforts in the Gulf Coast region, please go to


Highsmith Inc.

Highsmith, Inc., is a complete supplier to schools and libraries through their catalogs and a national network of direct sales managers. With five decades of serving libraries, they provide planning services and partner with hundreds of manufacturers to design, deliver and install projects nationally.


Bretford is a family-owned company founded in 1948 and based in the Chicago suburb of Franklin Park, Ill. The company provides a broad range of furniture products, including library shelving, tables, carrels and soft seating; technology support; visual display products; and tables