In 1945, a library commission was formed, and they worked diligently to establish and maintain North Little Rock’s first public library. After a favorable election for a 1-mill tax, the city purchased a building at 211 Maple Street. This former home would open its doors as a library in 1946. The first librarian was Myrtle I. Deaton. The building contained two reading rooms, a work room, a children’s area, two lecture rooms, an office, and an upstairs dwelling for Miss Deaton.
During its first year of operation, the library attracted immediate interest with more than 15,000 visitors. The library only had 2000 books when it opened, but the collection increased to over 5500 at the end of the first year.
In 1947, the library board secured a surplus building from Camp Robinson and opened a branch at 800 East 13th Street on land leased from the Missouri Pacific Railroad. In 1948, another branch opened at the North Little Rock Boys Club. This location was the first youth library in Arkansas. The library branches circulated over 30,000 books from the three locations.
The growth of the library continued into the 1950s, and in 1959, there was a drive for civic improvement bonds. Land was obtained for $125,000 in the area known as Military Heights for a new building. In addition to the library, a new Police and Courts building and a new health clinic were also built. The US government built a new Post Office nearby as well.
The branches combined into a new library at 2801 Orange Street, and the building was formally dedicated to William F. “Casey” Laman, a former North Little Rock Mayor, on December 30, 1962.
In 2002, after more than 40 years of use, renovations were needed. A second floor that included new rooms and space for public programs almost doubled the existing library size to nearly 50,000 square feet. The remodeled library was dedicated on April 22, 2003. A renovation to Laman Plaza was completed in 2006 with new sidewalks, rock work, and an update to the fountains and pond.
In May of 2006, the William F. Laman Public Library opened its first branch on Main Street in downtown North Little Rock. It shared space with the North Little Rock History Commission at 502 Main Street, which at one time was the North Little Rock City Hall and Fire Station.
In September of 2012, the library system purchased the historic Argenta Post Office at 420 Main Street for future expansion. After an extensive renovation, the Argenta Branch opened on April 5, 2014. The building houses a book collection, computer lab, art gallery, and public meeting rooms.
In 2020, attention again turned to Laman Plaza. The pond and fountain became very costly to operate, and major repairs would need to be made because of the age of the structure. With the expense involved, the decision was made to permanently close the fountains.
The land in the plaza transitioned to the care of the North Little Rock Parks Department for development of an all inclusive playground. The playground was dedicated and opened December 14, 2021.
In 2022, the North Little Rock Public Library System welcomed over 200,000 patrons through the doors, received over 1 million impressions on our social media platforms, and circulated over 60,000 items through our branches. Plus, thousands of others used resources including the computer lab, passport office, and notary.
A mobile library serving patrons beyond the walls of our physical locations is expected to arrive in the Summer of 2023. The mobile library will provide almost all of the services available at our branches by visiting neighborhoods and locations around the city