Maud Smith Marks Branch Library
The 1980s – A Very Determined Friends of the Library Group
In 1984, a group of West Harris County residents met up to create a Friends of the Library for an area that did not have a physical library building. The community had seen a surge in population over the previous decade, and residents wanted library access, but the impediment was funding. The Friends group began petitioning the county for money to be appropriated for a new library in Katy.
The group had to wait for several years, but they used that time to get to know each other, the area's history, and raise funds. The county eventually agreed to funds for a library building but did not have the funds to buy land to build the library.
Undeterred, the Friends looked all over for vacant land and approached several people about donating land for the project. Finally, Vincent Kickerillo responded with an offer of one and a half acres across from Memorial Parkway Junior High School on Westgreen Boulevard, a cause for celebration.
The Naming - Maud Smith Marks
The County had agreed to build the library, but they needed a name. A search into local residents' histories turned up the perfect person: Maud Smith Marks (pictured here).
In 1899 at the age of 12, Maud Smith moved to Harris County with her family. She married Emil Marks eight years later, and by 1917 they were living in a new house on 640 acres of land in Barker, Texas. They had four children on what came to be known as the LH7 Ranch and came to encompass 30,000 acres.
Maud Marks was very concerned with her community's welfare, creating a club where women learned arts, crafts, and home improvement techniques. She also worked to ensure that the area's children were properly educated, including access to free books. With no libraries nearby, Marks arranged with the Harris County Public library to send books to her. The books were kept in a local church case and checked out to children and adults who lived near the LH7 ranch. Marks ran the first little library in West Harris County all by herself.
Groundbreaking of the Maud Smith Marks Library on October 30, 1991.
Another photograph from the groundbreaking. Maud Smith Marks's two daughters attended the groundbreaking: Maudeen Marks is on the far left, and Atha Marks Dimon on the far right of the front row.
The Grand Opening
Construction of the new building took less than 2 years. By July of 1993, everyone was preparing for the grand opening of the Maud Smith Marks Branch Library. A cable TV channel did a video walkthrough of the library. Channel 2, The Katy Times, and the Houston Chronicle covered it.
Finally, on July 27, 1993, the grand opening took place with an attendance of over 300 people. Shortly after the opening, customers checked out all copies of the very popular Nancy Drew series and The Babysitter's Club series.
Ribbon cutting at the grand opening ceremony.
In August of 1993, Maud's daughter Maudeen Marks donated an antique plow to the library, a nod to the history of the LH7 Ranch and the area's farming history. Maud and her husband Emil are seen here with the plow.
During the branch's construction, the Friends of the Maud Smith Marks Library began an innovative fundraising project in which citizens could purchase a tile and create a handprint. All the tiles would then be installed on the outer wall of the branch. On September 27, 1993, a dedication ceremony was held celebrating the completion of the wall.
The finished handprint wall.
In October of 1993, artist George Bevill was commissioned to do a portrait of Maud Marks for the library.
In 1994, there was a children's program all about the culture of the Native American tribes, seen here. Popular reference questions that year were Nancy Kerrigan, volcanoes, and hurricanes.
In January of 1995, a program celebrating Kwanzaa was put on by the library branch.
In October of the same year, Houston-area author Bill Crider visited the branch to answer questions and sign autographs.
In February 1996, the Friends held a "Fill Our Shelves" campaign to encourage donations to the library. Several celebrities donated items for the drawing at the end of the campaign, including books autographed by Former First Lady Barbara Bush and former Houston Astro Nolan Ryan.
During a widening project on the Mason Road Esplanade, several trees had to be removed. County Commissioner Steve Radack arranged for the tree to be planted around the branch (seen here).
Maud Marks staff took training for the move from the integrated library system Carl to Dynix.
In January of 1997, the staff attended internet training to prepare for eventual internet access at the branch. That March, the library finally obtained access to the internet.
In the spring of 1998, construction took place on the Margie Hudson Reading Garden outside the library. Hudson was instrumental in campaigning for the branch during the 1980s and 1990s. Memorial pavers were laid, including the one seen here for Margie Hudson, with a quote from Barbara Bush: "Believe in something larger than yourself."
The dedication ceremony for the reading garden took place on April 18, 1998.
In 1999, VHS and cassette tape checkouts were becoming more popular, and checkouts increased overall.
The branch held a Mother's Day concert and tea, an origami program, and in the summer, the magician Sarah Klinger performed a children's program (pictured here).
September saw the beginning of a "chef of the month" cooking program.
On December 9, 1999, a bench from the reading garden was stolen. It would be returned three months later, with no explanation.
In 2000, the circulation of the Vietnamese collections started to increase. For February, the Chef of the Month, Xinh Nguyen, prepared Vietnamese summer rolls for the branch's patrons.
In the summer of 2000, retired newscaster and expert on Texas history Ray Miller led a series of lectures on Texas history at the branch.
That same summer, the branch started preparing for new sections of the handprint wall and announced that patrons could start claiming tiles and sending donations.
In August of 2000, the branch started offering e-books for checkout.
In March 2001, branch staff began training on the new Horizon circulation software. As the library migrated to the new software, all the items in the collection had to be re-barcoded in May.
In the summer of the same year, Margie Hudson was further honored with a meeting room in the library named after her (seen here).
In July of 2001, the new portions of the handprint tile wall were completed and there was a dedication ceremony on August 18th.
Branch staff created a "ribbon" made from paper hands for the ribbon cutting.
The reveal of the new tile wall and message: "Where the best of books travel hand to hand, freedom and goodness flourish."
During the horrific events of September 11, 2001, the staff at the branch brought out a TV so that patrons could watch the news coverage.
Later that fall, the County Commissioners decided to drop the nonresident fees throughout the system. Katy residents in Fort Bend and Waller counties no longer had to pay a $40 annual fee to borrow materials from HCPL.
In May of 2002, the branch received the "Bell Ringer" award for the best English-as-a-second-language Program in Houston.
In February of 2003, the branch held a scrapbooking class and a Microsoft Excel class for adults.
In July of 2003, the branch held celebrations for its tenth anniversary. A major part of the tenth-anniversary celebrations was a Harry Potter-themed event.
On June 5, 2004, the branch held a 60th anniversary of D-Day commemoration where veterans shared their experiences.
On June 11, 2005, the branch held the award ceremony for the third annual Father's Day Writing Contest.
On March 4, 2006, the branch held a program commemorating the 15th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm.
The staff presented an Asian Pacific Heritage Festival on May 13, 2006, to highlight the achievements and culture of the Asian and Pacific Islanders community. Interim Director Rhoda Goldberg recognized the branch for the success of the Festival during the next staff awards and presented the Maud Smith Marks Branch Library with a Director's Award.
On May 12, 2007, the branch held another Festival during Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, featuring performances by Taiwanese Folk Dancers and Chinese Folk Dancers.
To celebrate the Summer Reading Program that year, the staff dressed up as pirates (pictured here).
Other programs in 2007 included calligraphy class, and a living history program for Holocaust Remembrance Month featuring Ruth Steinfeld, a Holocaust survivor.
On July 26, 2008, the branch celebrated its 15th anniversary. Appearances included Hank the Hound Dog, the Wild River Banjo & Fiddle Band, and Atha Marks Dimon (pictured here).
That December marked the 15th year the library had participated in KTRK Channel 13's annual Share Your Holidays Food Drive.
Unfortunately, in March of 2009, Maudeen Marks passed away. The younger of Maud Smith Marks's two daughters, Maudeen had remained active with the Friends group since the Library had opened.
Maudeen's sister, Atha Marks Dimon, celebrated her 99th birthday on August 18, 2009. Library staff threw her a birthday celebration with support from the Friends group. Dimon can be seen here with Branch Librarian Sylvia Powers at the party.
County Judge Ed Emmett signed a proclamation designating August 18, 2009, as Atha Marks Dimon Day.
Atha Marks Dimon passed away on December 24, 2009.
On January 27, 2010, the branch hosted a Digital Bookmobile Event where patrons could come and learn how to download digital books and audiobooks in a 74-foot high-tech tractor-trailer.
In October 2011, Clara McSpadden retired from the branch, and a retirement party was held to celebrate.
On December 16, 2011, the branch held an event called Santa's Ranch to celebrate the holiday season.
In 2013, the branch celebrated its 20th anniversary with a Ranch to Branch celebration. Sponsored by the Friends of the Maud Marks Library, the event included a cowboy storytime, line dancing, "calf" roping, and "panning for gold."
In 2015, the library was selected as a site for the Caring for Katy event, a yearly service program from the Kingsland Baptist Church. Volunteers power washed the outside of the building and cleaned and re-painted the interior.
In February 2018, the Maud Marks staff hosted a luncheon to recognize and thank their exceptional volunteers.
Maud Marks staff and the Katy Branch Library staff represented their libraries at the Katy Safety Fest in April.
In July, the branch celebrated its 25th anniversary with a celebration that included square dancing, live music, and Wagon One from the Salt Grass Trail Ride. The Marks family attended the July 21st event (seen here).
In 2019, an HCPL grant from the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation and Phillips 66 to promote literacy, learning, and health for families provided professional development for staff, along with books and educational toys as part of the Family Place Libraries national initiative. The George and Barbara Bush Family Place at the Maud Smith Marks Branch Library opened in October 2019. The redesigned space provides a welcoming environment for young children to learn new skills, develop small motor skills, interact socially with others and read books as a family. The Family Place initiative also included workshops for parents and toddlers that promoted learning and development through play.
The branch got a monument sign in August 2019, thanks for contributions from the Friends of the Maud Smith Marks Library, HCPL, and County Commissioner Steve Radack.
During 2019 Share Your Holiday food drive, Maud Marks staff connected with students at Jeanette Hayes Elementary.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maud Smith Marks Branch transitioned to virtual and curbside services to continue offering exceptional customer service to the community. Staff held virtual storytimes and programs, and since curbside service started in the summer of 2020, staff have been busy filling the many, many holds placed by their devoted patrons.
While the Maud Smith Marks Branch staff miss their daily face-to-face interaction with customers, they have found new ways to connect with the community.