Northwest Branch Library
Cypress resident Marsha Carlevaro began a campaign to open a new library in the area in the early 1980s. Carlevaro and her family had settled in Cypress in the mid-1970s and the nearest library, Cypress Creek Branch Library, was more than a 30-minute drive away. Carlevaro contacted Harris County Commissioner Robert "Bob" Eckels regularly to petition for a branch in her community. Commissioner Eckels challenged her to find the land for such a project. Rosa Chang, who at the time was developing the Regency Athletic Club (modern-day The Met), donated the land to the project.
By January 1983, construction was underway at the new branch, located at 11355 Regency Green Drive.
Interior of the Northwest branch under construction, with the signature circular front window visible.
View more photographs of the construction, or view the 1983 floor plan for the building.
There were many fundraisers for the new library, including book walks and book sales. Many public performances were hosted at local McDonald's restaurants in Cypress, including mimes from neighboring Bear Creek Library, the barbershop quartet The Diamond Jills, and Sweet Adeline Quartet. McDonald's Grimace appeared at one book sale along with Scooby-Doo and Yogi Bear.
Marsha Carlevaro and others officially formed a Friends of the Library group in the fall of 1983. The Cy-Fair Rotary club donated $2,500, which covered the cost of 250 new books for the Northwest Branch.
Six hundred residents went door-to-door collecting materials for a book sale, which raised $1,400. Private individuals and companies donated an additional $70,000. These funds were used to purchase books and equipment for the building.
Marsha Carlevaro received the Precinct 3 Outstanding Citizenship Award for her fundraising work. Marsha and John Carlevaro were profiled in 2011 about their impact in the Cypress community; read Marsha's memories of her campaign for a library.
In the days before the grand opening, staff worked to get the more than 20,000 new books on the shelves. Assistant Librarian Shirley Ada and Library Assistant Sheila Whitfield are seen here sorting out the many paperback books in early May.
On May 17, 1984, the Northwest library branch opened to an enthusiastic crowd. The 10,800 square foot building could hold up to 70,000 volumes, providing space to expand and grow over time. The building included a meeting room that could seat 50 and a children's area with a custom puppet stage.
Children present a "Welcome to the Neighborhood" banner at the grand opening of the Northwest Branch Library.
Watch a video of the grand opening here. The video is 27 minutes long, and opening remarks begin around the 1:40 mark.
In April 1985, the branch started checking out items using an automated circulation system named ALIS. The new system took over routine tasks such as tracking statistics and overdue items, saving staff time, and increasing the accuracy of monthly reports.
The Friends that year raised more than $20,000 through a door-to-door fund drive and two book sales.
There was a robbery at the library in October. The thieves took a clock, a typewriter, a microwave, telephones, a radio, a camera, dishes, bottles of Dr. Pepper, tape dispensers, and an exit sign.
The library held a program in April 1986 called “Nutrition for the 80’s Woman.” Children's Librarian Nancy Stewart noted that visits from daycare centers went down during the year, as a new law requiring seat belts on school buses went into effect.
The Houston economy took a sharp downturn in 1986 when all the major oil corporations laid-off workers. The Houston Chamber of Commerce, City of Houston, United Way, and other Houston business organizations established the Information and Referral Service for the Unemployed (InfoNet) to provide services to the unemployed. The Northwest branch was selected as a site for the program and used the extra funding to orders books on job seeking and to set up a job search center in the building.
In February 1987, the library hosted a program called “The Psychology of Mate Selection.”
The following month vandals left a bunch of junk in the library parking lot overnight: real estate signs, a tire, a vacuum, toys, plants, and an old toilet. They also sprayed the back door and loading dock with shaving cream.
The Northwest branch was one of the highest circulating branches in the early 1990s - in the June 1990 system report, Northwest is fourth, after Bear Creek, Cypress Creek, and Freeman Memorial.
In 1991, a Sweet Valley High book display at the library was really popular with young readers.
In the early 1990s, local musical group Shelia Renfro and Soul Possession used the branch in their promotional art. The band posed in the young adult area section of the branch in this photo, which became the cover for their cassette tape released in 1994.
In August 1994, the library's back door was ripped off and burned in the parking lot.
Fireworks were dropped down the book drop in July 1995, scorching some library books. And in October 1997, someone poured wine coolers down the book drop.
In June 2001, Hurricane Allison hit the Houston region. The roof of the branch was damaged by the high winds and had to be repaired.
Branch staff dressed up as pirates for the 2007 Summer Reading Program theme "Sail Away With Books!"
The branch hosted a Piano Concert in May 2008.
In September 2008, Hurricane Ike rolled in and damaged much of the electrical grid for the Houston area. The Northwest branch reopened immediately with extended hours. "We were a refuge, a place of business, a place of information, a resource for those with FEMA claims and a source of entertainment, air conditioning, electricity, and a hot cup of coffee," wrote Branch Manager Deborah A. Sica. "In these rare times, we were able to see the confidence the community has in its public library system. It was never doubted that we would be there for them in times of difficulty and challenge."
A bookmark made for the event.
A man browses the shelves at the Northwest Branch Library in May 2010.
Children enjoy a ride on Larry the Camel during Spring Break 2012.
Precinct 3 Parks and the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council Troop 14318 installed a new reading garden at the branch on April 25, 2015.
The completed garden.
The storytime group released butterflies in the garden in December 2015.
In 2016, the Northwest branch became the first HCPL branch to open a Family Place Library. Family Place Libraries focus on early learning to ensure that all children enter school ready and learn. Northwest's involvement in the project was possible due to a Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) Family Place Libraries Project grant.
Staff traveled to New York for a three-day training at the Family Place Libraries Training Institute, and the library received $6,000 to purchase books, equipment, toys, and programming materials. The program's success at the Northwest branch allowed for expansion to more than 12 branches by 2020.
Children walk through the garden and play outside the branch in 2018.
Northwest branch staff dressed up for Halloween in 2018.
From a watermelon carving event in November 2019.
The interior of the branch in February 2020.
As 2020 progressed and the Coronavirus pandemic struck Harris County, the Northwest branch staff transitioned to virtual service. The staff helped customers adjust to the new curbside service and designed customized book bundles.
Staff posted this message on social media in April 2020: "Hey everyone, we can't wait to see your smiling faces! But for now, be safe, be smart, and read all the books!"
During this hard time, customers sent in cards thanking the staff for their tireless work and sharing memories of happier days. As one customer wrote: "We really miss coming to the library, but you have done such a marvelous job of keeping the community supplied with books and news. I love seeing the little 'extras' that you leave on the table for the children!"
The branch reopened to the public on May 19, 2021. After a challenging year for the Cypress area, the library is back in business.
John Carlevaro, speaking on why he and his wife worked so hard to establish a library for the Cypress community: "So many times people say, 'What can I do?' People need to get involved, and they need to take a stand. It is important for people to say, 'I can make a difference if I try.'"