Elnora Edgar Buchanan, Texas Librarian

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: 1925 to 1939
Location: Texas, United Statesmap
Surnames/tags: Edgar Buchanan Librarian
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c. 1918 - Elnora Edgar

Miss Elnora Edgar was "reared and educated in Austin, TX"[1] In the 1922 Austin City Directory, Elnora is listed as student, U of T (living with parents.) The Austin American newspaper of 19 August 1923 noted that Elnora was to be a senior at the University (of Texas) and was a member of Phi Mu. [2] In October of 1923, the same newspaper reported that she had won an election for a position on the U of T Student Assembly. She was a 1924? graduate of the University of Texas. [3][4][2][5]

While still a student at the University of Texas, Elnora spent two summers doing library work away from Austin - first in Houston with the Harris County Library and then in Waco.

In the summer of 1923, Miss Elnora worked in Houston for Miss Lucy Fuller (who trained at the New York Public Library. [4]) Miss Fuller had been chosen as the first county librarian in May of 1921 by Julia Ideson, librarian of the Houston Public Library. At the beginning of the Depression, Miss Ideson and some of the county commissioners had recognized the need for literacy and community services for the rural communities of Harris County. When Elnora spent her first summer there, it had grown to fifty library stations throughout the county and central office space carved out of the former attic in the 1910 Harris County Courthouse.

For the summer of 1924, Miss Elnora worked in the Waco Library which had been established since 1900. By the time Elnora was there, it was housed in the 1904 Carnegie Library

In August of 1925, Miss Elnora Edgar accepted a position as assistant librarian at Baylor College in Belton, Texas[3][4][5] (which became the University of Mary Hardin Baylor.) Elnora's sister, Maurine, enrolled as a student at Baylor in 1926. 1927 finds Elnora as Sponsor of the Baylor Sophomore Class and participating in a faculty drama. In 1928, Miss Elnora is librarian and teaching at Baylor.

1929 [3]

In 1929, Miss Edgar was appointed Assistant Librarian for Harris County, Texas [3][4] by Miss Lucy Fuller's successor Miss Ruth Underwood, of Houston. Ruth had also attended the University of Texas, Austin, in the graduating class before Elnora's and they were sorority sisters at Phi Mu. Miss Ruth had been a guest of the Edgar family in Austin on more than one occasion.

Work for the Harris County Library continued the tradition to “actively identify the library service with community life" with schools, PTAs, civic clubs, summer camps, 4-H, and Roadside Beautification Clubs. The librarians, staff and volunteers coordinated rural community puppet shows, story hours, and book exhibits at flower shows. Every book was carefully recorded in the card catalogue. Mending and re-binding of the heavily circulated books took place at the central courthouse fifth floor library. Increased circulation and book losses were noted to increase as early as 1929 due to the growing number of transient patrons due to rising unemployment. By 1931, the County Library consisted of 75 branches.

1931 [4]

In the summer of 1931, Miss Elnora traveled to New York for the study of library extension methods with the New York Public Library [4][5] "due to the high standing of the Harris County library among county libraries of the country" [4] She sailed to New York from Galveston on the SS Mohawk to return in October.[4]

Along with local work, the librarians and staff of the Harris County Library maintained active relationships with the Texas Library Association, the Texas Library and Historical Commission (which became the Texas State Library and Archives Commission) and the American Library Association. In April of 1932, Ruth and Elnora attended the meeting of the ALA in New Orleans.

In December of 1932, Elnora Edgar became head of the Harris county public library. [1][2][6][7][5] succeeding Mrs. Ruth (Underwood) Pooley. The library had grown from a small space in an unfinished room of the courthouse to a spacious, well-equipped space on the fifth floor with 74 branches throughout Harris County. "People of the remote sections, who formerly made little use of the library facilities, now are it's heaviest users. Total circulation of books has grown from about 19,576 in 1931 to 320,000 for the past year [1932]."[5]

The year-end Annual Report for 1932 (on Ruth Underwood Pooley stationary and signed by Elnora Edgar) gives a detailed accounting of library stations, books, and circulation numbers (as every Annual Report does.) It also answers for every penny spent in 1932: $19,671.59 of the $24,500 allocated by the county commission.

Early in 1933, Miss Elnora Edgar's first full year in charge, she was informed that the County Library budget for that year would total $11,500. Miss Elnora wrote a letter to the County Auditor recommending that to reach the budgeted amount they would need to dismiss seven employees, close twenty county branches and cut the salaries of those that remained. That letter found it's way into a newspaper. County Commissioner Walling reported that "Miss Edgar had better watch her step... She is just a hired hand." He continued "Miss Edgar says the library needs new books They want to read old books, all about something that happened back in the time of Noah or King Tut." Going on to say "people have called me from all over the county about this matter... and I told them the court is not going to let any library branches be closed." Walling called for her dismissal.

In the 1933 year-end Annual Report, Miss Elnora states "all service was hampered because of the 48% budget reduction." "Since the library was not permitted to lay off staff or close branches there was a very small margin left for books, binding and operations." The total number of volumes owned was down by 7% due to those that were lost and worn-out - "a small number considering the collection is scattered among so many stations and the number of transient borrowers is very large." A total of 9,053 books were mended - up from 8,116 in 1932. 206 new titles were added as compared with 1,447 in 1932, 1,700 in 1931 and 2,200 in 1930. Each book in the collection was read an average of 7.3 times. A cooperative program was worked out between the County Library and the Federal Transient Home. In August, there was a budget increase to $12,750 to increase the salary of part-time workers to meet National Recovery Act requirements. Miss Elnora accounted for every bit of the $12,492.89 spent.

Also in the 1930's, she became a member of the executive board of the Texas State Library Association [6][8] where she served as chairman of membership and as president of the junior members' group. [8]
1936-1938 - Southwestern Library Association - First Vice-President

1937-2 [8]

On May 3rd, 1937, Elnora Edgar became "Librarian No.1 of Texas" [9] when she was elected president of the Texas Library association [2][6][7][9] at a convention in Dallas, [6] becoming the first of the junior members of the association to be elected to the presidency. [8] As such, she "set herself to the task of advancing... campaign for state aid for libraries" The legislators have been shown, according to Miss Edgar, that out of 254 counties in Texas only 57 have any public library service [8] Under the program, local libraries would be established in any community sufficiently interested to bear a part of the expense. [8]

On the 19th of May, 1937, Miss Elnora Edgar married the Rev. Charles Wayne Buchanan [1][2] "Elnora, as Mrs. Buchanan, has no idea of giving up her chosen work and she is said to have some big plans for the library association" [1]

The Houston Post reported on the 10th of August, 1937:

At it's launch, the bookmobile carried 1500 books to rural Harris County communities.[10]

As head of the county public library, Elnora Edgar Buchanan expanded the scope of library services offered to rural residents with branch libraries and the bookmobile which made "frequent trips on a regular schedule to areas where it would be impractical to maintain a branch library." "In the year it has been operated it has proved one of the most popular facilities of the library."[7]

"As president of the [Texas] state library association, she campaigned in behalf of the People's Library Movement."[7] Formally organized in 1937, appealing to the Texas Legislature for aid to library service for those utterly lacking. [11]

At that time, Mrs. Buchanan's days were a round of journeys to Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and wherever else her leadership and comprehensive knowledge of the cause were needed at the instant."[11]

In the middle of the Depression era, Mrs. Elnora Buchanan reported that "sixty-five per cent of the people of Texas [were] without library facilities" adding "Texas ranks thirty-ninth among the states in per capita expenditures for libraries" [7]

In 1939, Mrs. Elnora Edgar Buchanan announced her resignation from the Harris County Public Library to join her husband, the Rev. Wayne Buchanan in his new parish in Boerne, TX. [11]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Diantha's Diary" unknown newspaper, Austin, TX, May 16, 1937 In possession of [Lowe-7361].
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Miss Edgar, Mr. Buchanan Wed Today" Houston Press, TX, 19 May 1937, In possession of [Lowe-7361]
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Assistant County Librarian", unknown newspaper, Houston, TX, Feb. 27, 1929. In possession of [Lowe-7361]
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 "County Library Worker to Study In New York City" Houston Chronicle, TX, uncertain date, Photo by Eidson, In possession of [Lowe-7361]
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "Mrs. Ruth Pooley Is To Resign As County Librarian" Houston Chronicle, Texas, 31 Oct. 1932
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "County Librarian Heads Association" (Houston?) Press, May 3, 1937 In possession of [Lowe-7361].
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 "If It's Books You Want" Houston Post, Texas, 20 May 1938. In possession of [Lowe-7361].
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 "Librarian To Push Drive For State Aid" Houston Chronicle, May 9, 1937, In possession of [Lowe-7361].
  9. 9.0 9.1 "County Librarian Heads Association" Houston Press, Texas, 3 May 1937, In possession of [Lowe-7361].
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Library On Wheels Ready To Roll" Unknown (Houston?) newspaper, after May 1937 In possession of [Lowe-7361].
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 "Mrs. Buchanan's Work For Texas Libraries" unknown newspaper, Houston, Harris Co., TX, 1939. In possession of [Lowe-7361].

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