Lindale Cafe, 1928-1937

Lindale Cafe, 1928-1937

In July 1928, Harris County Public Library deposited a small collection of books in the Lindale Cafe, one of five new library stations that opened that year.  Residents checked out 392 books in the first year.  The library opening came at a time of great change in Harris County.  The City of Houston annexed a great deal of unincorporated Harris County between 1926 and 1929.  Several early HCPL branches were closed due to annexation, as the County could not operate a library within a city's borders without the city's approval.  HCPL continued to open new locations outside the newly annexed land and reach those outside the city boundaries. 

Lindale was not the only library placed in a local business.  The first library in Katy was placed in a general store.  Library stations like the ones in Lindale and Katy allowed early HCPL to place small collections of books in places the local community regularly frequented.  HCPL staff visited stations every two weeks and would bring books to refresh the collection.
Circulation at Lindale Cafe grew steadily over the next few years, with 1,072 books checked out in 1930, 2,362 in 1931, and 3,003 in 1932.  Starting in 1933, circulation began to drop.  A 48% budget reduction had heavily impacted service to all locations.  Very few new books were purchased, and the library struggled to keep the libraries open. Library staff took one-week vacations without pay that year to keep within the County's budget.
The damage from the 1933 budget shortfall took several years to undo. By 1937, the County had nearly doubled the overall budget for the library, and the budget for books went from $246.70 in 1933 to $5,377.30 in 1937.  
The 1937 budget also included a very important item for the future of HCPL: $1,425.24 was allocated to purchase a bookmobile (the equivalent of $31,500 in 2024). The bookmobile launched in August 1937 and greatly improved library service for patrons. The new vehicle carried books on built-in shelves. It offered regular visits with rotating collections of books and access to library assistants to help with book selection. 
However, the debut of the new bookmobile led to the closure of 16 library stations throughout Harris County - and the library in the Lindale Cafe was one of those. All but one of the closed stations had fewer than 2,000 books checked out in 1937. Circulation at the Lindale Cafe was 1,774 books during its final year.  
The Lindale community continued to have a bookmobile stop for many years and absorbed service from the nearby Houston Textile Mill when the library station there closed.  The Lindale community supported the campaign to establish the North Houston Memorial branch in the 1940s.  

From the HCPL Digital Archive 

1928 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1930 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1931 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1932 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1933 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1937 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library


Learn more about City of Houston's Annexation History from 1936-2023

Annexation History StoryMap by HITS-GIS SERVICES, City of Houston. (Accessed April 19, 2024)


Explore more at the HCPL Digital Archive

Bookmobile Exhibit - From book cars and wagons to fully air-conditioned vehicles with Internet access, trace the bookmobile program from the 1920s to the modern-day.

Houston Textile Mill - Harris County operated a library at the Houston Textile Mill from 1931 to 1936 in partnership with the mill owners and the Houston school district.

North Houston Memorial Branch Library - Open from 1948 to 1969. Lindale community residents were involved in the book drives and fundraising efforts to build the North Houston Memorial Library in the late 1940s.