The New Orleans Public Library board of directors has chosen its first four chairmen emeritus: Rosa Freeman Keller, Helen Slipman Kohlman, Ruth McCusker and Irvin Mayfield Jr.
This honorary position was created to honor the library’s most distinguished past board chairmen for their service, contributions and dedication.
“I’m very proud that these four individuals will be the first to be recognized for this honor,” NOPL Executive Director Charles Brown said. “All have had such a tremendous impact and dedicated so much effort to the betterment of the New Orleans Public Library, and all are very deserving.”
Keller began her long association with the New Orleans Public Library in 1953, when she became the first woman appointed to its board of directors, a post she held for the next 26 years. Keller served as library board chairwoman in 1971. Her efforts to integrate New Orleans Public Library facilities furthered the cause of equal opportunity for all citizens of New Orleans.
Kohlman was appointed to the library board by Mayor Ernest N. Morial in September 1982 and served as chairwoman from 1987 to 1991.
McCusker was chairwoman and Kohlman was vice chairman of the library board during the library’s financial crisis in 1986. Both officers were instrumental in securing funds to keep library locations open when the city’s lack of funds threatened their closure. They were active supporters of the library’s original tax millage campaign, which won approval from 75 percent of voters.
Mayfield became the first professional artist to be appointed to the library board on Oct. 5, 2006, shortly after Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than half of the library’s locations and a substantial portion of its collection. Mayfield worked to guide the process of rebuilding the New Orleans Public Library system and collection after the storm. Under his leadership, state-of-the-art libraries replaced those locations that had to be rebuilt, and all New Orleans Public Library locations are now hubs for community groups, literacy programs and educational growth.