The Beginning of SEARLibrary
Long before the wonders of the internet and e-books existed, the foundation of today’s library was centered in 3 cooperating counties seeking to receive State Aid for the creation of a regional library system. The Southeast Arkansas Regional Library (SEARL), serving Drew, Desha, & Lincoln counties was established in 1947. Drew County was chosen as headquarters for the Regional Library.
During the first 6 weeks of operation, approximately 7,500 books were processed for circulation with over 2000 more on order or waiting to be processed. In addition to the issues of building a collection and housing it appropriately, there was a problem with making the collection accessible to potential patrons, particularly in rural areas. To this end, an essential aspect of library services was the Southeast Arkansas Regional Library bookmobile, which began operation in late 1947 with a Ford panel truck converted for this purpose. The partnership between the counties enabled member libraries to take advantage of practical economics such as bulk purchasing, centralized record-keeping, ordering, & processing materials. Staff development, hiring, budget, fund-raising, & other administrative tasks developed around a Regional Library Board & Librarian (later Director) centrally located in Drew County, provided a more reliable source of professional guidance & oversight.
Bradley County, with 2 Branches in Warren & Hermitage, joined in 1983 First joining in 1958, Chicot County rejoined the system in 1994, adding the Lake Village, Eudora, & Dermott Branches. During its 75 years of operation, SEARL has seen 10 directors, 16 branches opened, & many different buildings. Today's SEARL comprises Bradley, Chicot, Desha, Drew, & Lincoln Counties with 9 branches serving Southeast Arkansas. In addition to the 9 branches, SEARL services 12 satellite locations that include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, & volunteer libraries. The Region also maintains 5 Little Free Libraries in remote communities.