Who was Cita Dennis Hubbell?
The Hubbell Library's eponym was a native Algerine, a registered nurse and neighborhood activist who led the 1970s campaign to have the library re-opened.
Cita (pronounced "SEE-ta") was born Cita Isabel Dennis on 02 August 1928. She lived on Elmira Avenue, just a couple of blocks from the little library that would later bear her name. She attended Belleville Elementary School (across the street from the library) and graduated from Martin Behrman High School.
After high school, Miss Dennis went to Charity School of Nursing and became a registered nurse. In 1949 she married George Hubbell, an officer in the US Navy. Cita became a military spouse and mother, moving someplace new every few years whenever her husband was transferred. She lived in Boston, Philadelphia, Norfolk, San Francisco, Long Beach, Pebble Beach and San Diego, as well as in Kiel, in what was then West Germany. The Hubbells had three sons and one daughter.
Shortly after George retired from the Navy in the late 1960s, Cita decided she wanted to be close to her parents. The Hubbells came back to Algiers in 1970. Mrs. Hubbell took up the nursing profession again, working in the neonatal nursery at Charity Hospital. She also worked at Jo Ellen Smith and F. Edward Hebert Hospitals in Algiers, and for the federal employee health service at the Hale Boggs Federal Building.
Among the changes Cita found on her return to Algiers was that the neighborhood library on Pelican Avenue was closed. A newer, larger library—the Algiers Regional Branch—had opened in a more newly-developed area of Algiers in 1966, and it was considered sufficient to serve the entire west bank of New Orleans. The old library was boarded up and left to be vandalized. A sign on the front door read "closed for repairs," but in reality the city had no plans to reopen it.
The trouble Cita saw was that the older neighborhoods had large numbers of children and elderly people, most of whom could not simply "hop in the car and drive" to a new library 6 kilometers (4 miles) away. Old Algiers was, and is, a more pedestrian-oriented part of the city. They needed a pedestrian-accessible library.
Cita organized a grass-roots neighborhood campaign to have the old library repaired and reopened. Despite opposition from the City Librarian and most of the New Orleans City Council, the campaign was successful. The Algiers Point Branch opened in 1975, and immediately became one of the busiest libraries in the city. For several years, Mr. and Mrs. Hubbell organized annual Christmas tree sales and other activities to generate funds for and interest in the Algiers Point Branch.
Mrs. Hubbell's efforts influenced library policy citywide. Notwithstanding hurricanes and floods, city leaders today wouldn't even think about closing small neighborhood libraries in favor of larger regional libraries.
Cita died of cancer on 01 November 2001. After her funeral at Holy Name of Mary Chuch, City Councilman Troy Carter proposed that the city name the library after her. Mr. Carter and his successor on the council, Jackie Brechtel Clarkson, made that happen. The Algiers Point Branch became the Cita Dennis Hubbell Branch in 2002.