Weezie, A Feline Reminder
- story by Rebecca Orfila
The Bay St. Louis-Hancock County Library’s resident muse, Weezie, lounged comfortably on the back of her officemate’s wrap-around desk when I walked into the office.
She blinked demurely as we were introduced by Mary Perkins, Hancock County Library System’s Public Affairs and Development Officer. Perkins explained that she and the green-eyed, tabby and white feline have shared a work space since 2001, the same year that the Hancock County Library System received the National Award for Library Service.
With a swipe of her thick tail brushing across the brochures and press releases on library programs and events, Weezie rose and sauntered over to the front desk to listen in on our conversation. She stretched out on the tabletop as Mary told the story about Weezie, Hurricane Katrina, and the library.
In total, the cat has lived in the library for fifteen years. She does not wander off into the library proper, but provides a happy diversion from library business to anyone that visits Mary Perkins’ office. Perkins and the rest of the library staff have forged a warm relationship with Weezie.
Weezie is named in memory of Louise Crawford (1880-1965), the first librarian of the Hancock County Free Library. A native of Indiana, Miss Crawford resided in Bay St. Louis with her mother and brother at the same address on Citizen Street for several decades.
According to Peebles and Howell, authors of a history of Mississippi libraries (1975), Miss Crawford (also known as “Miss Weezy”) was inexperienced when she took on the task of managing and growing the library in 1934. The authors credit Crawford and the library board for turning the fledgling project into a winning proposition for the county’s readers.
As part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, the library was originally located in a rent-free room (courtesy of Leo Seal) above the Hancock Bank in Bay St. Louis. With donated books and furniture and contributions from local government and other generous providers, the library finally had a sturdy foundation for success.
The City of Bay St. Louis stepped up to provide fuel and a stove — plus some funding towards the cost of an Encyclopedia Britannica — while the county supplied building materials and a monthly budget of $12 ($212 in today’s money value). Ray Thompson (1958) reported that Miss Crawford’s salary was paid by the WPA.
With dedication and fortitude, fifteen libraries were established in Hancock and Pearl River counties by Miss Crawford. The Sea Coast Echo Centennial issue in 1958 reported that Crawford visited many communities each month in a bookmobile. By the time she retired in 1959, the early collection of 200 books had grown into an assortment of 16,000 volumes.
Weezie purred and flapped her tail leisurely as Mary Perkins told the story of the founding and growth of the library system in Hancock County. She accepted gentle pats on her paws and words of affection during the interview. Weezie must know that she has a good deal at the library. Given the cat’s endurance in the face of potential disaster, early librarian Louise Crawford could have seen her own enthusiasm and dedication in Weezie. She might have approved of her namesake’s presence in the library.
Currently, the library has a varied list of programs and activities at many of its locations, including AARP Tax Aides on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, computer program classes, children’s programs, movies, and more. A calendar of activities can be accessed on the Library website and on the Cleaver's Community Calendar.
Key to the continuing success of the Hancock County Library system is the Library Foundation of Hancock County, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization that was organized in 1995. The primary goal of the foundation is to “strengthen the Hancock County Library System’s value to the community,” to find and secure funding for special needs, projects, and endowments, and to encourage community involvement.
Gifts and memorials from the community help to provide modern facilities and services in addition to a wide range of programs that strive to fulfill the interests of county residents. To contact the Library Foundation of Hancock County, Inc., call 228-467-6836.