North Channel Branch Library
Before the 1990s, the greater North Channel community had access to two library branches: Channelview and Woodforest.
In June 1954, the Channelview Branch opened with 3,000 books in an upstairs room in a community shopping center. The project was organized and sponsored by the local Pilot's Club. Before this, HCL served the community through small collections of books placed at the DeZavala School and the home of Channelview resident Alice Donaho. Through the 1940s and early 1950s, the bookmobile visited the area regularly.
In 1955, the Channelview Pilot's Club was awarded a Certificate of Merit by McCall's Magazine for the success of the Channelview branch. The branch was featured in an August issue of the magazine, and the club was rewarded with a dinner and award presentation by the Fashion Editor of the Houston Press.
A new county-owned building opened in August 1961 and was the first branch funded solely by Harris County. The $10,000 building opened with 5,000 volumes. The Old River Terrace Garden Club donated the site.
During the 1970s, the branch was vandalized several times. In February 1979, the library's interior was burned after vandals broke in through a side door and started a fire. Nearly the entire 10,000 book collection was destroyed. While the branch was closed for renovations, the area was served by the Bookmobile program. The branch reopened six months later with an entirely new staff. However, over the next decade, branch staff were robbed several times until the County hired a security guard in 1993.
The Woodforest Branch was opened in May 1969 after a years-long campaign by the residents of the North Shore community. The 5,000 square foot building held 25,000 books. Unfortunately, the library flooded 5 times in the first six years. During a flood event in June 1964, the librarians had to be driven home by garbage trucks because the water around the building was so high.
In 1976, four members of the Woodforest Branch resigned, including branch manager Patsy Shockley. They cited frequent flooding, budget cuts, and feeling unsupported by library administration.
The library continued to flood every few years. In June 1981, another flood caused the branch to lose over 1,000 books. The building had several inches of standing water, the wood shelving was warped, and the doors of the building were splitting at the bottom. Despite flood prevention efforts by the County in 1982, the branch flooded again in 1983.
By the late 1980s, the County acknowledged that the Channelview and Woodforest branches were both too small and plagued with too many issues to continue to meet the community's needs. The County decided the best solution was to build a larger building on a new site and close the Channelview and Woodforest branches. The new library would be called the North Channel Branch Library.
The county originally planned to construct a 10,000 square foot building that would be barely larger than the Woodforest or Channelview branches. Many in the community felt the area needed a larger building and took on raising the necessary funds. In the fall of 1990, local citizen John Herdt and other volunteers started a campaign to raise a minimum of $120,000 needed for a bigger building.
Donations came in from Channelview's ARCO plant, the Northshore Rotary Club, the Friends of the Woodforest Library, and private citizens, including an anonymous donation of $8,000 from one individual. Students from Schochler Elementary School donated $899.23.
Seen here is a sign outside of a branch showing the progress of the fundraiser.
As the deadline approached, the group remained just shy of their goal. In June 1991, the Surviving Families of Petrochemical Disasters donated $40,000 to the fund. The group, organized by Channelview resident Sandy Davis, donated to emphasize that "education is the key to safety." The new library would have a memorial wall dedicated to the men and women who had died in local chemical disasters at ARCO Chemical Company, Phillips 66 Company, and Lyondell Petrochemical. The donation made the dream of a larger building a reality for the community.
With the funding in place, the county could move forward with planning the new 14,000 square foot building. The County delayed the bidding process for a year due to concerns about poor weather and price increases in construction materials after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. A contract was secured in March 1993, and the project could begin.
The groundbreaking for the branch took place on April 5, 1993. Schochler Elementary School teacher Lois Cooper and some of her former students that had donated fund back in 1991 attended the event.
The library would need another $165,000 for library furnishings. The county sold the Woodforest Branch building to the Galena Park Independent School District and used the fund from the sale to purchase furniture for the new building.
Construction began immediately. Pictured here is insulation and waterproofing work in September 1993.
View more photographs of the construction in a North Channel scrapbook.
The finished building in January 1994.
The Channelview and Woodforest branches closed in April 1994.
Staff got to work filling the shelves with the books from the Channelview and Woodforest collections. The building could hold 75,000 volumes but would open with only 54,000 on the shelves. Branch Librarian Linda Darling is seen here in the days before the branch opened, making notes about last-minute preparations.
On May 12, 1994, the surviving families of the Petrochemical Disasters Support Group held a dedication ceremony for the Memorial Wall to honor those who lost their lives in petrochemical accidents.
The grand opening of the branch took place on May 15, 1994. A 12-minute video (shared here) was created to celebrate the opening and includes speeches by John Herdt, HCPL Director Cathy Park, and County Commissioner Jim Fonteno.
Ribbon cutting at the grand opening. From left to right: Rose Wise from ARCO; Virginia Greene, Assistant to County Commissioner Jim Fonteno; Linda Darling, Branch Librarian; HCPL Director Cathy Park; Wayne Oquin, President of the North Channel Chamber of Commerce; Library Building Committee Chairman John Herdt; County Commissioner Jim Fonteno; and State Representative Fred Bosse.
Branch Librarian Linda Darling checking out the first book at the branch to County Commissioner Fonteno.
In an article written a few days later promoting the new building:
"'It's like Christmas,' says Darling. 'I felt like a kid, waiting and waiting and thinking it will never come and suddenly, it's here.'
"Darling thinks patrons will find a new role for the library, that the Woodforest facility really wasn't suited for.
"'This library is much more comfortable and quiet,' says Darling. 'I think people will come to see it as a study and resource center.'"
In October 1994, the building closed for two days due to flooding. The building had to be evacuated later that same week because of a pipe explosion near the San Jacinto River.
In January 1995, ARCO Chemical Company donated $5,000 for the purchase of CD-ROMS and science books.
On April 20th, a tornado hit the area and caused water to seep under the back door.
Pictured here is the branch decorated for the 1995 Summer Reading Program.
Branch Librarian Linda Darling retired in May 1995 after working for the library for 23 years. Linda had been the branch librarian at Woodforest for many years prior to its closure. She passed away on July 12th after a brief illness.
HCPL Director Cathy Park shared this memory of Linda: "She encouraged me to go back to school and get my Master of Library Science Degree ... challenged me to interview for the job of County Librarian ... She touched my life not only as a colleague but as a friend."
In April 1997, the branch began offering Sunday afternoon. After a Houston Chronicle article urging citizens to help the library recover lost materials, the branch collected $600 in fines, and 23 lost books were returned. The most unusual item to return was a copy of Old Yeller due in 1973.
By November 1998, computers offering Internet access at the branch were bringing more people into the library.
In July 1999, the staff started to thin out the microfiche collection. That October, the branch acquired a computer with software for word-processing and building resumes. The programs were very popular, with 26 users in the first 10 days.
In June 2001, Tropical Storm Allison hit the area; however, there was no major damage to the branch. DVDs were becoming very popular with customers at the branch.
In October 2003, Houston Texan football player Billy Miller and a Texans cheerleader visited the North Channel branch as part of the Reliant Energy Power Players reading program. They signed autographs and posed for pictures with staff and children.
On May 17, 2004, the branch held a party to celebrate its tenth anniversary. The branch was gifted this sketch of the building at the party.
Branch staff celebrating Harry Potter in 2006.
To celebrate the 2007 Summer Reading Program theme, staff dressed up as pirates.
On May 27, 2009, the branch celebrated its fifteenth anniversary.
The branch held a Hispanic Heritage Festival on September 26, 2009. Mexican Consul General Carlos Gonzalez Magallon attended, with HCPL Director Rhoda Goldberg and Dr. Charles Grant from Harris County Precinct 2.
Three teens show off masks they made during a craft program in June 2011.
North Channel staff Christmas card from 2013.
The branch celebrated its 20th anniversary on May 14, 2014. Seen here is Branch Manager Christina Thompson with Chick-Fil-A cow during the celebration.
Two girls show off their superhero gear created at the branch in June 2015. The theme of the Summer Reading Program that year was "Every Hero Has a Story." Captain America stopped by in July for a storytime hour.
The branch held a Santa Night program in December 2016. Santa Claus posed with the staff in this photo.
Outreach event at a Harris County Public Library Pop-Up Health Village in December 2018.
The branch celebrated its 25th anniversary on May 15, 2019. Customers shared their favorite memories of the branch and its staff. View all of the stories here.
HCPL Director Edward Melton visited the North Channel Branch Library to present NASA @ Your Library in June 2019. Dressed up as an astronaut, Director Melton talked about outer space, NASA, and life on Mars.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the branch to find new, creative ways to serve the community, with things like curbside service, book bundles, and virtual programming.
COVID-19 Relief Food Drive in October 2020.
The branch reopened to the public on May 19, 2021. After a challenging year for the North Channel community, the library is back in business.