Kingwood Branch Library
The Kingwood master-plan community was established in the early 1970s in an unincorporated part of Harris County. With over 500 acres of nature preserves and parks, the community was known as the "Livable Forest." By the end of the 1970s, the population was up to a few thousand families, and there was a growing need for expanded services from the county. The HCPL Bookmobile began visiting the community every other week starting in 1977.
In January 1979, the Friends of the Library, Kingwood (FOLK) was established with the goal of obtaining a library for the new Kingwood community.
In February 1979, the Harris County Commissioner's Court raised the prospect of constructing five new 10,000 square foot libraries, one of which would be in the Kingwood community. However, funding for all five hinged on a bond vote set for May.
FOLK began a campaign in April to secure the votes needed to pass the bond for the library.
In May, the bond passed by a wide margin, and the new library was scheduled to be built on a plot of land across from the Kingwood High School that had been donated by the Friendswood Development Company within the next two to three years.
In October 1980, FOLK asked residents to show their support for funding for the library through a letter writing campaign.
In March 1981, the county was ready to move forward with construction. A new site for the branch was found, as the original site near the high school was found to be in a 100-year flood plain. The Friendswood Development Company turned over a deed to one and a half acres of land on Lake Houston Parkway to the county instead.
In May 1981, the architetural firm of Goleman and Rolfe was chosen to design the new library. The firm had recently completed the Greentree Elementary School in Kingwood and another elementary school in nearby Atascocita.
The groundbreaking took place on July 21, 1982. Pictured here at the ceremony: President of FOLK Beverly Gaudlitz, Commissioner E. A. "Squatty” Lyons, and Kingwood Operations Manager John Bruton.
The Bookmobile continued to visit the community once a week, alternating between two local grocery stores, Minimax and Magnum Foods. The community checked out an average of 700 books a week, the most of any location on the Bookmobile's route.
The proceeds for the 11th annual Kingwood Art Show were all donated to FOLK to help purchase equipment needed for the library.
Construction continued through the winter. In early 1983, the library hired staff to start planning programs and events for the summer and fall, anticipating opening the branch in June. Kingwood resident Cindy Ecklund, who had previously worked at the Houston Public Library, was hired as the Branch Librarian.
While the branch was being built, Ecklund and her staff met with local school librarians to find out what resources Kingwood children might need to have at the library to complete school assignments. Staff also visited the Kingwood Chamber of Commerce, the Kingwood Visitors' Center, and staff at the North Harris Community College to discover what resources the wider community might need.
HCPL staff connected with local daycares and schools to hand out flyers about the new library to children and their families.
Unfortunately, the opening was delayed to the end of summer. In July, the 12th annual Kingwood Art Show proceeds - a total of $9,185 - were donated to FOLK to purchase a microfiche reader, more books, and other equipment.
August 2, 1983, was the first day the branch staff could work in the new building. They had just a few weeks to unbox and shelve the 18,000 books and 130 periodicals ordered for the branch. The work went smoothly until August 18th, when Hurricane Alicia blew through the area, causing the building to lose power just days before the grand opening.
Luckily, power was restored the day before the dedication on August 21, 1983. County Commissioner E. A. "Squatty" Lyons attended the ceremony. The branch opened to the public the following day. The first book was checked out by Karl Kolbe, Fire Chief of the Kingwood Volunteer Fire Department (seen here).
On the first day of operation, 339 new library cards were issued, and 1,135 books were checked out.
The first children's program was scheduled for that Friday, August 26th, featuring Lisa Lollipop, a magic clown. One of the children's room highlights was special chairs that could be sat on or used in multiple ways.
Just two months after opening, the library had issued 6,000 library cards and 40,000 books had been checked out - twice the size of the branch's collection!
To help fill the shelves and meet this growing demand, FOLK started the Buy-a-Book program, in which books withdrawn from the library could be bought by patrons. The proceeds would be used to buy new books and equipment for the branch. Kingwood Cablevision agreed to help the campaign by posting hourly updates on how many books had been purchased on the Sunday afternoon weather crawler. A poster promoting the program can be seen here.
In February 1984, a librarian filed an accident report after a paper-clip fight broke out among some children. That October, unknown persons graffiti the staff lounge window with the phrase, “Rock N Roll 86.”
On the branch's first anniversary, members of the Buy-A-Book campaign gathered to celebrate the fundraiser's success as the first books arrived courtesy of the fundraiser. Branch Librarian Cindy Ecklund is pictured here with the main architects of the campaign: Sheryll Hand, John Whiteside, Vivian Curry, and Selene Hendricks.
Every member of the Kingwood Library was featured in a profile of the branch in the local newspaper The Echo in the fall of 1984.
In 1985, the Buy-A-Book program raised $30,800. FOLK also continued to use the Kingwood Art Show to raise funds for the library.
In May 1986, librarians were trained to search online with the new “Easynet” terminal to answer reference questions.
In 1986, the Buy-A-Book program raised $37,000. The program's continued success was recognized in 1987 when the Friends of the Library-Kingwood received an award from the Texas Library Association (TLA) for State Library Project of the Year. Members of FOLK and attended the awards ceremony with HCPL Director Cathy Park and Branch Librarian Cindy Ecklund.
In February 1987, the Kingwood Historical Society sealed a time capsule in a park near the library. To be opened on the 100th anniversary of the community in 2071, the capsule contained mementos of the Kingwood community during its first 15 years. The items put into the capsule, including drawings of the first homes, a copy of the first issue of the Kingwood Observer, and the first community directory, were on display in the Kingwood Library ahead of the ceremony.
In March, the library started a program called “Do We Have Something of Yours?" In an effort made to clean out the Lost and Found area, staff collected all the items left in the Lost and Found and placed them on a table for the public to go through and claim,
In January 1988, a display case at the library invited patrons to learn more about “computers in 1988”. The slogan in the display read, “Machines work, people should think: Computers do what you say, not what you want.”
The library celebrated its 5th anniversary in August 1988. FOLK presented the library with a cake decorated with an illustration of the branch's exterior (seen here).
In March of 1989, the library held another Lost and Found event.
The population of Kingwood exploded during the early 1990s: In 1990, the community had 19,443 residents and 204 businesses. The population increased to 37,397 in 1992
Popular topics in the early 1990s included: dinosaurs, Greek gods, wildflowers, euthanasia, abortion, American Indians, Goosebumps, Jurassic Park, DNA, and genetics.
In December of 1990, there was an increase in online reference searches for job hunting and information on businesses and companies. Seen here are children enjoying the holiday party at the library in late December.
Over two-thirds of the Kingwood community had a library card. When the library had opened in 1983, the shelves were more empty than full, with only 18,000 volumes in a building that could hold over 60,000. By 1991, however, the branch had more than 75,000 items (books and non-books). The importance of the library to the Kingwood community was clear.
In May 1991, the branch had an exhibit dedicated to the troops of Operation Desert Storm.
In September 1992, FOLK began discussing a need for a new library building for the branch. Patrons sent in letters expressing their views for and against a new library.
That November, microfiche was hardly used anymore in favor of the new CD-ROM catalog system purchased for the branch by FOLK. For the very first time, customers could do a keyword search of the library's collection to find relevant titles.
In June 1993, the library held a two-part series on breast implants.
The branch celebrated its 10th anniversary in August. FOLK geared up for another year of the Buy-A-Book campaign. FOLK viewed it as imperative to purchase more books for the branch, as the county library's overall budget for materials was cut by 42%.
Buy-A-Book campaign coordinator Paula Beste said at the time: "You can't expect to have a first-class library unless we all pitch in."
Starting in June 1994, members of the Kingwood Garden Club began renovating the landscaping at the branch, completing their work during the winter of 1995.
In October 1994, there was a severe flood in the area; luckily, no water made it into the library.
In June 1996, the library migrated its circulation and cataloging software from CARL to Dynix.
In March 1997, the commissioner's court-approved funding to remodel the branch. Again, the Kingwood Garden Club helped improve the landscaping, hiring local topiary artist Steve LeGrande to cut the shrubberies in front of the building into a bookworm and a dragon. The library held a contest to name the creations: Rupert, the bookworm; and Sir Clackentoes, the dragon.
In December of that same year, a lit cigarette was dropped down the book drop, destroying five books. The carpet had to be replaced in the book drop room and was replaced by tile.
In January 1998, the most popular reference question was "how do I get on the Internet?"
The branch celebrated its 20th anniversary with a party in August 2003. Pictured here is HCPL Director Cathy Park and County Commissioner Jerry Eversole. The county was beginning to discuss what the future of the Kingwood Library would look like.
In 2004, FOLK helped fund a new children's program called Dragonner Club. Club members, ages 7 to 11, participated in themed readings and activities twice a month, including sports, gardening, and animals. Children could move up "ranks" towards knighthood by attending meetings and reading books.
The mascot was Sir Clackentoes from the entrance topiary.
In February 2006, District E City Council member Addie Wiseman announced plans to build the new library on land purchased by the city for a community center. The library would receive a brand new 35,000 square foot building, and the community center would move into the old library building after being renovated. The new Kingwood community would benefit from the partnership with the City of Hoston, as the Kingwood Library would become a pick-up location for the Houston Public Library. Customers would now have access to two systems at one location.
The plans for the new library building. Nestled among trees, the south side of the building features large windows that take advantage of the natural light and beautiful view.
As one local newspaper put it: "Imagine curling up in a comfortable chair with a good book, sipping a cup of cocoa, and gazing down into an enchanted forest right here in Kingwood. This will be the new Kingwood Library."
Kingwood staff with Director Rhoda Goldberg (far left) in May 2008. Staff organized an appreciation luncheon for their volunteers with a rodeo theme.
The groundbreaking for the new library took place on December 13, 2008.
The new building under construction in summer of 2009.
The new building had many wonderful additions, including a much larger parking lot and a drive-thru window to allow customers to return and pick up books without leaving their cars. Branch Librarian Christi Whittington is seen peeking through the new window while the branch was still under construction.
Exterior view of the almost finished new building in December 2009.
Presenting the key to the new Kingwood Branch Library on January 28, 2010. From left to right: County Commissioner Jerry Eversole, HCPL Director Rhoda Goldberg, City Councilmen Mike Sullivan, HPL Executive Director Rhea Brown Lawson, Joe Turner, Issa Dedoush.
The Kingwood Branch Library closed on March 13, 2010. Staff began the process of moving into the new building and setting up the new collection.
The new library finally opened on April 19, 2010.
The adult section on the second floor of the new branch on opening day.
The children's room on opening day.
The first book in the book drop at the new location.
Storytime with Connie at the new Kingwood Branch Library.
Book club meeting at the Kingwood Branch Library in 2014.
Volunteer appreciation lunch at the Kingwood Branch Library in 2016.
In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey ripped through the area and caused significant damage to the branch. Water spilled into the first floor damaging the children's room and lobby.
The floodwaters had swept through the first floor, and the humidity and heat had ruined most of the children's collection. However, the adult and teen collection on the second floor had to be removed and stored while the building was repaired.
Everything had to be moved out of the building. Staff from other branches and administration joined Kingwood staff to save what books they could. No electricity meant no air-conditioning or elevator, so staff carefully carried handfuls of books from the second floor down the stairs to be boxed up outside. The hot, humid conditions were miserable, but staff kept working to save every book possible. When all available boxes were full, staff put out calls on social media asking community members to bring more boxes. Despite the terrible conditions, residents showed up to help out their library.
The building had to be shut down, and the first floor was gutted, and repaired (seen here mid-construction).
Much of the Kingwood community was devastated by the flooding due to Hurricane Harvey. Branch staff regularly held outreach events in the community while the repairs were underway.
In April 2018, staff were finally able to start moving shelves and books back into the building.
With a completed building and a new collection, the branch reopened on May 29, 2018, with a big celebration.
Interior of the branch, 2019.
As 2020 progressed and the Coronavirus pandemic struck Harris County, Kingwood 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 the community. The branch even served as a COVID-19 testing site in 2021.
The branch was blanketed in snow brought by Winter Storm Uri in February 2021.
On May 19, 2021, the branch reopened to the public for the first time since March 2020. Staff were overjoyed to welcome back the community and begin the next chapter in the story of the Kingwood Branch Library.
The scrapbooks on display in this exhibit and the HCPL Digital Archive are thanks to the efforts of the Friends of the Library, Kingwood. During the flooding from Hurricane Harvey, FOLK almost lost these scrapbooks and mementos, but they were saved by a Kingwood Eagle Scout and digitized for preservation.
To learn more about the Friends of the Library, Kingwood, visit https://www.kingwoodfolk.org/.