The first Shreveport library was run by a group of women who organized a subscription library in 1890 with a fee of $2 per year. It was called the Shreveport Library Association and was housed in a small building on Crockett Street. The men of the city organized their own library called the Mechanics Library.
In 1901 the two libraries merged and became the “People’s Library,” located in the court house. There was an attempt in 1903 to establish a Carnegie Library, but the project was turned down by the voters.
After World War I, Mayor John McWilliams Ford appointed a committee to promote passage of a bond issue with a $265,000 library appropriation. This bond issue was successful, and a library was built at 400 Edwards Street after the existing house on the site, which had been built about 1848, was torn down. Construction began in 1922, and the library opened on December 26, 1923.
The architect was J.P. Annan. Exterior embellishments were by Paul Heerwagen, who also designed the interior of the Strand Theatre. The style of the building is transitional, incorporating elements of both Italianate and Renaissance Revival architecture. The architectural features of the building are a low hipped red tile roof, arched windows, and strong horizontal lines. Along the top of the building is a frieze displaying the engraved names of writers and philosophers. The building still stands, and now houses the Chamber of Commerce.
The current site of the Main Library first served as the location of the “Old” Custom House, which included a post office, customs house, and federal court. The U.S. Weather Service also had a weather station in the tower of this building. The building was designed by architect N. S. Allen and was completed in 1887, standing for 23 years before being razed in 1910.
In 1912, the site served as the location of the newly constructed Federal Building, which was designed by architect James K. Taylor and included a post office and federal court. The building style is Renaissance Revival and was constructed using limestone and stuccoed brick. Architectural elements include arcaded limestone, Doric pilasters, quoined corners, balustered casement windows, terra cotta window trim, and a decorative modillion cornice.
In 1931, the building was expanded and the fourth floor was added. In 1974, the court house and post office moved, and the building became vacant. In 1978, Walker & Walker architects began a renovation that lasted until 1980, culminating in relocation of the Shreve Memorial Library Main Library from the original building at 400 Edwards to the current site at Texas and Marshall Street. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.