Katy Branch Library
A Community Library
The Katy Garden Club established a library for the Katy community in 1918. The library frequently moved between the private homes of area residents, and volunteers operated the library for twelve hours each week.
When the Harris County Public Library system was founded in 1921, County Librarian Lucy Fuller met with Harris County community organizations, including the Katy Garden Club. By the end of 1921, the Katy community library joined the HCPL system.
By 1923, the library was placed in Mrs. C.W. Douglas's grocery store (seen here). A wooden case with several shelves housed the books in the back of the store.
In 1935, the library moved to Ed Romack's furniture store after Mrs. Douglas sold her furniture store. At its new home, the station was managed by librarians Eudora Frazier (for nine months of the year) and Louise Schipf (during the summer months).
In the late 1930s, the library station was closed, and the community was placed on bookmobile service. A supplementary collection remained in the Katy School, and the school became a library station.
Finally A Branch
In 1940, the Katy Branch Library opened with Eva Ruth Peck as branch librarian. The 16'x24' one-room building was constructed on the southeast corner of the city square at Avenue B and Second Street. Katy citizens volunteered to help with the construction. The new building had a small porch with an interior finish of knotty pine paneling and hardwood floors.
Eva Ruth Peck remained the librarian until 1943, when her sister, Edith Oliphant, took over as librarian for the next seven years.
The interior of the Katy Library is pictured here.
In 1949, a library board was organized, and talk began about turning Katy into a bookmobile stop. This, thankfully, never came to pass.
In 1950, Eva Ruth Peck returned as librarian of the Katy branch, a position she held until her retirement in 1963.
During the 1950s, the Katy Elementary School (seen here) did not have its own library. Teachers took their classes on a weekly walk to the Katy Library to check out books.
In 1953, with proceeds from citizens of the area and the old building's sale, a new building was constructed to house both the Katy Library and the Katy Volunteer Fire Department.
The new joint-use building was located on the south end of the city square, and the community celebrated with an open house on October 24, 1953. The new library was open 12 hours a week and held approximately 2,000 books.
In the 1953 annual report on the library system, County Librarian Mary Butler wrote: "Katy now has one of the nicest branch libraries in the county and of this she should be very proud."
In 1963, after Eva Ruth Peck's retirement, Vivan Taylor became librarian of the branch, a role she held for nine years. By the end of the 1960s, the library was open for 20 hours a week.
Meanwhile, the book collection had grown to 4,500 volumes, double the number when the branch had opened in 1953. There was little space for people to sit and read or study. Library programs at the branch were minimal because of the lack of space. The branch was functioning mostly as a book station for Katy residents.
In 1971, Cheryl Griener served as the Librarian when Vivian Taylor stepped down. Judy Eckmann was hired in 1972 and would oversee the next big change at the Katy Library.
A 1971 study looked at the services areas of current HCPL locations and made projections about future growth in the county. As seen in this graphic, the Katy Library (number 9) was very isolated from the rest of the library system. The City of Katy over the previous 20 years had seen only modest population growth. However, the Katy Freeway (Interstate Highway 10) had just recently been completed. This mostly rural part of Harris County was on the cusp of a population boom.
In 1973, a Friends of the Library group was finally formed with Jane Lindsay as president. The Friends approached the City of Katy to inquire about expanding the library section of the building. The City told the Friends that an expansion would be included in a bond election to be held in the spring of that year. The Friends organized to get voters to understand the importance of the bond for the library, and the bond ultimately passed.
The Katy Fire Department was given expanded space in a new city complex and soon moved out. Now the entire building was available and plans were made to convert the joint-use building into one larger library space.
During the renovations in 1974, the library was moved to a room in the Katy VFW Hall for four months. The Friends raised $3,363.44 in a fund drive for furnishings.
On March 16, 1975, the library opened at the newly remodeled building. The library now had 2,150 square feet, a workroom, and a librarian's office. The wing that used to be the old library became the children's area.
In 1976, the Branch Librarian position became a full-time position. The library was consequently open 40 hours a week for the first time in its history.
When the Savannah Collier library station in the Carverdale High School closed in 1978, the station's librarian Myrtle Ross joined the Katy Library as the children's librarian.
By the early 1980s, the Katy area was booming: new subdivisions had popped up all around Katy, the city received a new hospital, and two new elementary schools opened.
Due to all of this, the City of Katy bought more shelving for the library and allowed interns to work 40 hours a week. At the end of 1981, Circulation was up by 20% from the previous year, and the county increased the branch's budget to reflect the increased usage.
A young adult fiction section was set up at the library. Programs for adults included a safety program, a quilting program, and a "refunding" program. Programs for children included "Theatre on Wheels," regular storytimes, and storytimes for daycare groups.
In September, Branch Librarian Judy Eckmann wrote a History of the Katy Branch Library, from 1921-1981 (seen here).
Judy Eckmann resigned as Branch Librarian in March 1982, and Myrtle Ross (pictured on the left) took over the position until the county hired a permanent replacement.
In May, library hours were cut: the library was closed on Wednesday mornings, and on Saturdays the library closed at 5 pm instead of 6 pm. A new copy machine and "micro-reader-printer" were also installed that month.
In July, Carol Walther (pictured on the right) became the Branch Librarian.
The roof leaked that year, and there were discussions about the need for a new building for the library. Consequently, some of the programs were held at the Katy VFW Hall. One of those programs was a "Theatre on Wheels" production of Alice in Wonderland.
Circulation increased by 15% from the previous year.
In 1983, circulation increased by 22% from the previous year. The branch was unharmed by the two tornadoes and Hurricane Alicia that blew through the Houston area that year.
The branch was upgraded in status from a small library to a medium-sized library. The theme for the 1983 Summer Reading Program was "Reading Rodeo." During July, children made Pac-Man pillows.
In 1984, Helene Shippington became the branch librarian, and circulation decreased by 0.5% from the previous year, though other statistics remained the same.
In April 1985, the City of Katy installed new carpeting in the building. Jo Ellen Green became the branch librarian in September of that year.
In November, the Friends of the Library began campaigning for a new building for the Katy Library. At a Katy City Council meeting in November, Mayor Johnny Nelson was authorized to negotiate with property owners for a new library site. In December, Mayor Nelson wrote a letter to Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack, advocating for a new library branch. The City of Katy began to budget for staff salaries and building maintenance fees.
In 1986, petitions were still going strong for a new library building for Katy; however, there was economic stagnation at the time that made that request difficult to fulfill.
The Friends of the Katy Library started selling books from a bookshelf in the building lobby year-round.
By 1989, Melba Martin (seen here) was hired as the branch Librarian.
In the fall of 1990, the branch received its first computers when the Compaq Computer Corporated gifted 227 computers to the County. A fax machine was installed at the branch in November 1992. By 1996, the branch was wired for Internet access so staff and patrons could use the new online catalog.
Between 1991 and 1997, the library had five different branch librarians: Rosa Sims in 1991, Norma Davis in 1992, Rex Steiner in 1994, Judy Cantwell in 1996, and Terri Dingley in 1997.
1993 was an eventful year for the Katy Library. In November 1992, a tornado damaged nearby Bear Creek Library, which was closed until December 1993. During that time, Bear Creek customers visited the Katy Library, and by January 1993, the circulation at Katy had increased by 3,000 books a month. The Katy Library, with its smaller collection, could not keep up with the demand from the new customers - most of the picture book collection was checked out within a few months. Katy Library staff received complaints that the collection was "too small" but noted that there was nowhere to put more books in their current building.
Construction of the Maud Smith Marks Library was also underway in the early 1990s. Just a handful of miles from the Katy Library, the new branch would serve residents of Katy primarily south of IH-10. When the new branch opened in July 1993, staff expected a significant drop-off in customers. While Katy's circulation tapered off after both branches opened, their circulation numbers were still higher than before 1993. As noted by Branch Librarian Rex Steiner, the heavy use from the Bear Creek and future Maud Smith Marks customers "awakened the Katy City Council to the fact that the library was an important part of the town, and that a new library might help the town."
By the 1990s, Katy Library staff held lots of programs from the VFW Hall, as the Katy Library could not accommodate larger crowds. In a June 1997 report, Branch Manager Terri Dingley notes that 50-65 kids attend storytime regularly and that some programs have more than 200 children in attendance. The Katy Library needed more space for both books and programs.
While the Katy City Council briefly considered renovating the Hall for a new library in 1998, staff and Friends of the Katy Library wanted a new building.
In 1999, there was a proposal for a new Katy Community Center that could also house the library.
On January 22, 2000, a bond election passed that included a proposal for a new library building for Katy, and construction was set to start in 2001.
In 2001, Cecillia Shearron-Hawkins became the Branch Librarian.
In 2002, construction on the new library building began with a groundbreaking ceremony (seen here).
Construction continued from 2002-2003.
View more pictures of the groundbreaking and construction in a photo album put together by Katy staff.
The new building opened on April 27, 2003, with a dedication ceremony. Visitors signed a guestbook to commemorate the event.
The former building, known as Katy City Hall Annex, had served the library for 50 years. It was converted into office space.
Katy Library staff together in the new building in 2003.
The new library had plenty of space for children's programs. With the Reading to Dogs program, children could practice their reading skills with kind and gentle listeners.
In the fall of 2004, the branch held a series of programs celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, including a series of dances by young performers.
The Houston area experienced a rare snowfall around the Christmas holiday. Pictured here are snow flurries landing at the parking area of the Katy branch.
Presenters of an Art and Artists of Mexico program at the Katy Library in 2005.
In April 2006, Myrtle Ross retired as the children's librarian. HCPL staff and the Friends of the Katy Library threw her a reception.
Pictured here is Olga Reyes preparing for a bilingual storytime program.
The Katy staff held a formal tea ceremony to celebrate the Friends of the Katy Library in 2007.
The ESL (English as a Second Language) program was very popular in 2007.
Dancers perform at a Hispanic Heritage Month program in the fall of 2007.
Katy Library staff in April 2008 (seen here).
That same year, the branch celebrated Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month with programs featuring Indian culture.
In September, Hurricane Ike hit the area with no major damage to the Katy branch.
In 2009, Angel Hill became the Branch Librarian.
The branch also once again celebrated Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.
On November 17, the children's area of the branch was dedicated to retired children's librarian Myrtle Ross in recognition of her 36 years of public service. Members of local news media were present at the heavily attended event. Myrtle Ross is seen here laughing as she addresses the audience. Her portrait was hung in the children's room.
In January 2010, Katy Branch staff held a reception to thank the Katy Friends Group for their support and help.
The Katy Library also celebrated its birthday in 2010 with a party and cake.
The Katy Branch Library celebrated its 90th birthday in 2011. Local newspapers covered the party held on April 9, 2011. The party had an "Old Main Street" theme, which staff and visitors embraced with costumes and dancing throughout the day. The video here contains the highlights of the party.
The Summer Reading Program in 2013 was a busy one for Katy. The branch had a Teen LEGO Challenge in July. Teens used pieces supplied by the branch and their imaginations to craft one-of-a-kind projects.
New Children's Librarian Bryan Kratish started a Baby Bounce program that ran through July.
Katy staff put together a huge paper mural to celebrate the Christmas season, with a big Christmas tree and two nutcrackers.
On March 14, 2014, Katy had its first Pi Day, an event celebrating the mathematical value pi (π). H-E-B sponsored the program, which included a Pi Reciting contest to see how many digits of pi the children could recite correctly.
In October of that year, Queen Elsa and Princess Anna from the Disney film Frozen visited the Katy Branch Library and held a tea party.
The Katy Branch staff gathered together for a holiday card at the end of 2014.
View of the garden in 2015.
On May 7, 2016, the Katy Branch Library held an Asian Festival as part of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The festival included musical performance, dancing, henna art, and more.
In January 2018, the new Curiosity Cruiser bookmobile visited the Katy Branch.
Children got to see some wild animals up close during a Zoofari program in April.
In October, as part of Hispanic Heritage Month, Katy held Fiesta Hispana, with dancing, crafts, and displays.
HCPL Director Edward Melton visited the Katy Branch Library to present NASA @ Your Library in July 2019. Dressed up as an astronaut, Director Melton talked about outer space, NASA, and life on Mars.
As 2020 progressed and the Coronavirus pandemic struck Harris County, the Katy Branch staff transitioned to virtual service. The staff helped customers adjust to the new curbside service, designed customized book bundles, and recorded virtual programs to stay connected with their community.
The branch reopened to the public on May 19, 2021. After a challenging year for the Katy community, the library is back in business.