Lone Star College-CyFair Library
The most recent branch of the Harris County Public Library system was also the first joint-use library in the system's 80-year history. The Lone Star College-CyFair Library was the first partnership between Lone Star College (known at the time as North Harris Montgomery Community College District) and HCPL.
The story begins in November 1995, when CyFair residents petitioned to build a North Harris Montgomery Community College District (NHMCCD) campus in the area. However, the measure was voted down, and the project was stalled for the next four years.
In June 1999, new CyFair Chamber of Commerce President Darcy Mingoia decided to revive the idea of a college campus for the community. With heavy support from local business leaders - who emphasized the long-term economic impact of a college campus - the second campaign was much more successful. In August 2000, the community voted to join the NHMCCD system.
Planning for the CyFair campus began immediately. Within the following month, fifteen architects were invited to submit proposals for the campus design. NHMCCD purchased 200 acres near Barker-Cypress Road and U.S. 290. And in December 2000, a bond issue passed that guaranteed construction funds for the multi-million dollar project.
In March 2001, the College decided to create a temporary location until the CyFair campus was completed. The Fairbanks Center had its groundbreaking take place in May 2001 (seen here).
Around the same time, Harris County and HCPL recognized that the rapidly growing Cypress Fairbanks community needed a library branch. The County began calculating how large of a building the community would need and looking for funding to construct the 26th branch of HCPL.
In the fall of 2001, CyFair College President Dr. Diane Troyer met with Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack to request additional road access to the college campus. Commissioner Radack had been working on a proposal to build a 30,000-square-foot public library in the area, and the meeting with Dr. Troyer was fortuitous. The two agreed that a partnership between the County and the College would benefit the larger community. A planning team was created to design a joint-use library that would suit the needs of students and the greater public.
The County agreed to contribute $4 million toward the construction and $1.3 million to buy new books for the building. With the additional funds, the College added 28,000 square feet to the existing library plans. The new facility would be a staggering 70,000-square-feet.
As the design work for the library had been underway for years, the designers rushed to update the construction plans to include the additional square footage. One significant change was to the entrance to the building. The original plan had the doors centered around a prominent water fountain feature; the entrance was moved next to street access and parking to better serve children and young parents with strollers.
View the architectural plans for the building here.
The groundbreaking for the CyFair College campus, including the new library, took place in January 2002. Construction got underway, with NHMCCD aiming to open for the fall 2003 semester. In August 2002, a fundraiser was held to provide money for landscaping the campus.
The agreement between the County and NHMCCD was formalized with a written agreement in January 2003. The two had been operating under a verbal agreement since 2001.
Here are pictures of the interior of the library in the spring of 2003.
The 50,000 new books arrived in late July 2003. Staff enlisted student workers to help with the unboxing and shelving process.
On Tuesday, August 19, 2003, the library opened. Staff had a few more pallets of books to shelve (and a raccoon to usher out), but felt a huge sense of accomplishment at having realized their goal after so many years.
Classes began two weeks later, and the college held a grand opening celebration in October.
Librarians Susan Green and Monica Norem created a special collection depicting the history of the Cypress Fairbanks area in 2004. The display was designed with the help of local businesses and community members, including the Chaparral Genealogical Society and Library, and included maps, newspaper clippings, and family photographs.
"We wanted to create a place for local students to discover their history and because we are the kind of people who like to know what used to be there," said Susan Green.
Children ride around the campus grounds during a bike parade at the library in 2006.
By 2006, the library had to move Summer Reading Program events for children out of the storytime room and into large spaces, as the programs were so popular they had outgrown the children's area, which only had room for 80 people.
During the 2007-2008 school year, the North Harris Montgomery Community College District was renamed the Lone Star College System.
Not long after opening, CyFair College counselor Jadi Johnson approached library staff about creating a program that would welcome the community to explore the educational offerings of the college - but for free: "I have an idea that can realize the dream of our community to become part of this campus of lifelong learning."
Library staff loved the idea, and the Learning Inspiration Fellowship and Enrichment (LIFE) program was born. Seen here is the calendar of workshops from July 2009. Learn more about upcoming workshops.
Texas Longhorn cattle visited the branch during Summer Reading Program in June 2009.
A long line of families waiting for their turn at Marsha's Petting Zoo during the summer of 2010.
The CyFair Library was decorated for Halloween, October 2011.
In 2012, the American Library Association published Joint Libraries: models that work, written by Lone Star College faculty Claire B. Gunnels, Susan E. Green, and Patricia M. Butler. Gunnels and Green were both founding faculty of the Cy-Fair campus, and Butler worked at the Tomball campus.
The book covered some of the unique challenges faced by the partnership, including how the library handled fines (the college did not typically charge fines) and the creation of a Friends of the Library group (an uncommon practice for colleges).
"This library has been a success beyond anyone's expectations. The college now serves almost 20,000 students, and the Lone Star College system serves almost 80,000 in all. This library has been an important part of the community. Over 6 million items have been checked out since it opened in August 2003. It invites children and teens into campus and they often turn into students of the college."
Pirate storytime during the summer of 2013.
The CyFair Library celebrated its 10th anniversary in the fall of 2013.
Teens browse prom dresses at the CyFair Library's Prom Closet in the spring of 2014. The program was started in 2004 to give young women a free dress for the prom to those who cannot afford to buy their own or are on a tight budget. Each year the program provided between 400 to 1,000 dresses to girls in need.
Zumba class led by Professor Stephanie during the summer of 2016.
In the spring of 2017, the CyFair Library was home to several baby chickens through the Project Peep program. The program provided a hands-on exploration of the egg to chicken life-cycle. Children could check on the eggs while they incubated for a couple of weeks in a habitat in the children's room. Once the chicks hatched, children got to hold and watch the newborns run around. Eventually, the chicks were sent to live at the Blue Star Ranch.
The project resulted from a grant provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC).
Campus police officers read "How to Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?" by Jane Yolen to children during a December 2018 storytime.
Staff dressed up as Crayola Crayons for Halloween, 2019.
When the building closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CyFair staff continued to provide the best service possible to their students and customers, utilizing options such as curbside service and creating book bundles for customers. CyFair staff also filmed many virtual programs and storytimes, such as the Kitty Cat Kids Corner.
In June 2021, the library reopened to the public for the first time since March 2020. Staff were delighted to welcome the community back into the library and begin the next chapter of the Lone Star College-CyFair Library's story.