Garden Villas Branch Library, 1929-1974

Garden Villas Branch Library, 1929-1974

Opening and Early Years

The community in Garden Villas reached out to the County Librarian in 1928 to organize plans for a library building.  A local real estate office donated its one-room, one-story building, and the library officially opened in January 1929, circulating 3,856 books. 
Local real estate companies featured the branch in advertisements to persuade families to move to Garden Villas - one such ad announced cheerfully: “Yes! We have gas! Yes! We have lights! Yes! We have a LIBRARY!”  Circulation throughout the 1930s fluctuated, with a general increase by the decade's end.  In 1938, the branch was repainted and offered evening hours to better serve residents who were away working during the day.

Middle Years

A housing boom after World War II brought more families to the neighborhood, and construction continued through the end of the 1940s. In 1947, the branch changed its opening schedule from three hours on Mondays and Fridays to two hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  The County purchased a gas heater for the branch in 1948, and the branch increased its opening hours from six hours each week to nine hours.  Circulation jumped from 5,954 books in 1947 to 12,036 books in 1948. 
A profile in 1948 noted that the librarian, Tracy Miller, was known as the “Library Lady”  by local children.  Residents knew Miller’s home address and “[Miller] has found books that were overdue at her back door at home.” The article also noted that the building was small and could “only accommodate a few people at a time.” 
The land on which the Garden Villas branch sat was annexed to the City of Houston in late 1948. The County continued to operate the branch, coordinating with the Garden Villas Community Association to purchase books for the branch and pay the librarian’s salary.  However, since the City owned the land, the County was limited in improving the building.  
The Garden Villas Civic Club organized a drive to fund a new building in 1952.  Donations came from the volunteer fire department, the local P.T.A., and the Rotary Club of South Houston.  The books were moved to the elementary school during the summer during construction.  The new building, “an attractive building of purple and grey cedar shakes, with white trim,” opened on September 27, 1952.  The Civic Club sponsored a carnival to help raise additional funds to cover the building costs, which totaled $1,500. The new building was only 250 square feet.
By 1954, circulation had grown to 20,446.  The branch received a new “book return” slot in 1957.  In 1959, the Girl Scouts and Campfire Girls repainted the library's interior and donated a record album and books. Circulation hit 24,603 in 1959.

Later Years and Closure

Garden Villas branch in 1959In 1959, the Houston Public Library and HCPL agreed to allow the branch to continue until the City of Houston could build a library to serve the area. By the early 1960s, the building again needed to be expanded, but support to replace the building disappeared when residents became concerned that the building would be moved out of the neighborhood. 
The branch held 5,291 volumes as of 1969 and circulated 29,741 books – it ranked as #13 in circulation out of the 17 branches. 
In the 1971 Harris County Branch Library Study, the future of the branch appeared grim.  The study found that the branch “operates only as a book station for the convenience of the children in this general neighborhood.” Given the lack of off-street parking, the location was difficult to access for anyone outside of the neighborhood. The Houston Public Library had two nearby locations with larger collections and expanded services – the Park Place and Bracewell branch libraries.  The study recommended the closure of the Garden Villas branch. 
The branch was closed in the summer of 1974 after 45 years of serving the neighborhood.


1928 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

(1930, September 1). Underwood, Ruth. Yes! We have a library! Library Journal.

County Library celebrates 20th anniversary. From HCPL Scrapbook (1941-1948)

Garden Villas library well organized and equipped. From HCPL Scrapbook (1941-1948)

Library is opened in Garden Villas. From HCPL Scrapbook (1951-1953)

1952 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

Garden Villas timeline, (1954)

1954 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1957 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1959 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library 

(1961, December 21). Letter from Mary P. Owensby to Robert L. Cross.

Harris County Branch Library Study, (1971)

Garden Villas history, (1974?)


Further Reading on the Garden Villas neighborhood

History of the Garden Villas Neighborhood, at