The Forrest City Public Library was established in 1921 when a group of local women, known as the Community Service Circle, gathered together a total of five hundred donated books. These women found support through the Forrest City Elks Club, whose members offered a storeroom in their clubhouse to amass the books. The ladies were allowed to lend books on the condition that they keep the "library" open six days a week, so that bathroom facilities could be maintained for rural women during their trips to town. This first library was forced to close after a couple of years due to a lack of funding.
The library opened again in 1927, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Sam Mann (pictured), a prominent local judge and attorney. Mr. Mann offered a donation of five hundred dollars per year for five years to purchase new books, but only if the city would pay a librarian and utilities. At this time, the community residents were asked to pay a yearly subscription fee of eight dollars to help cover expenses.
The Forrest City Public Library moved to its new home on Washington Street in April of 1939 at a cost of $25,000. PWA funded their 45%, with the rest financed by local bonds with a twenty-year maturity. The building was and still is owned by the city. Employee salaries, utilities, and maintenance were the responsibility of the city under a contract that lasted until 1994.
One of the most notable ladies was Mrs. F. L. (Annie B.) Proctor (pictured), who served as librarian from 1931 until her semi-retirement in 1958. During that time, the library grew from 500 volumes to over 12,500. Mrs. Proctor had a pet project called The Arkansas Collection - over 1300 separate listings, all claiming a portion of Arkansas History. No one knows where all these materials were obtained - Mrs. Proctor always said it was "better not to ask." There are some very rare volumes, some under lock and key, but all are available to library patrons.
In 1976, after forty years of collecting materials, the library boasted some 24,000 books, furnishings, and office equipment - it was time to expand. A new addition was built across the back of the existing structure. This addition, which doubled the square footage, provided complete rooms for children's fiction, adult fiction, non-fiction, and The Arkansas Room. Library subscription fees were still required, and they were raised to $15 per year.
Then, in 1993, the citizens of Forrest City passed a 2-mil property tax to finance the library. That same tax issue was voted down by St. Francis County residents, which is why they still must pay an annual user fee of fifteen dollars.
Today, the library is open over forty hours per week. The original 1939 building is still in use, though there is now some 4200 square feet of space.