The Rapides Parish Library began as an experimental "demonstration" library project by the Louisiana State Library in the early 1940s. During the 1930s, Louisiana's rural population was one of the least read sections of the nation, and so the State Library undertook a bold project to provide Louisiana residents with library materials. Several temporary "demonstration" library projects were set up across Louisiana with state funding in order to show local communities the benefits which a permanent public library system could provide. The Rapides Parish Library was the largest of these projects, and it officially opened for business on January 16, 1942 with the opening of the Alexandria Branch.
In the weeks that followed, branches opened in Pineville, Boyce, Cheneyville, Lecompte, Glenmora, and Tioga. To provide reading materials to the many servicemen located in central Louisiana during the Second World War, the demonstration project also opened branches at Camp Beauregard and the USO at 8th and Casson Streets in Alexandria. Another major component of the Rapides Parish Library's demonstration project was the Bookmobile service,which proved extremely popular with children and adults across the parish.