The history of the Live Oak Public Libraries can be traced back to the turn of the century in Savannah. Established in 1903, the Savannah Public Library consisted of a 23,000 volume collection housed in one room of the Georgia Historical Society. Ten years later the Carnegie Library opened on East Henry Street to serve Savannah’s African American community (see more on the Carnegie Library below).
Surrounded by late-Victorian homes and adjacent to a small city park modeled on the squares in historic downtown Savannah, the main library building on Bull Street opened for use in 1916. The library was built at a cost of $104,041.78 with a Carnegie grant. Its neoclassical design was by architect H. W. Witcover, who also designed Savannah’s City Hall. In 1936, WPA programs provided for the addition of a small wing filled with book stacks and a mural depicting a scene from the Robin Hood story in the Children’s Room.
Bookmobile service began in 1940 as an outreach service to the rural communities around Savannah.
In 1945, Effingham County Library joined Savannah Public Library to form the Chatham-Effingham Regional Library.
Major change occurred in the system in 1956 when the Library was expanded to include Liberty County and the name was changed to the Chatham-Effingham-Liberty (CEL) Library.
One of the most significant changes for the system came when segregated library services ended in 1963 and the Library for the Colored Citizens of Savannah came under the auspices of the CEL Regional Library. Now library service was truly available to all citizens under one roof.
In 1966, a second addition to the Bull Street Library more than doubled the size of the building, providing an enlarged reading room and staff work spaces. A new expansion and renovation project was completed in 1999, restoring the Bull Street Library to its former glory and more than doubling the building’s size to 66,000 square feet. The 1916 building was restored to its original condition and painted in the neoclassical style of Robert Adam. The 1966 split-block addition was replaced with an elegant new addition clad in white Georgia marble and featuring vivid colors, sweeping curved walls, and enormous window walls looking out into the canopy of surrounding live oak trees.
The library’s name was changed to Live Oak Public Libraries in 2002 to reflect the personality of the region as well as the life and growth of its branches.