Parker Williams Branch Library
Plans for the 24th branch of the Harris County Public Library system began in 1985. County Commissioner El Franco Lee requested a study to determine if Precinct 2 needed a new library branch. The area near Scarsdale Boulevard and Beamer Road was rapidly growing, with more than 50,000 people living there in a 1985 survey. The nearest County-owned libraries were in Clear Lake and South Houston.
The County looked to build a joint-use building that could house a library and a courthouse annex. By the fall of 1989, the County had purchased a site on Beamer Road for the building, and architects drew up floor plans (seen here). The floor plan included space to hold approximately 93,147 books, the largest book collection in the library system.
Hopes were high that the branch could open as early as 1991. There were three other branches in development - Maud Marks, Atascocita, and what would become the North Channel branch.
The South Belt Chamber of Commerce supported the organization of a Friends of the Library group for the new branch, and Dr. Parker Williams agreed to lead the effort. Dr. Williams was the President of the San Jacinto Junior College-South Campus but had previously worked at the Pasadena Public Library in the 1950s and was part of the team that began San Jacinto College in 1961.
The new branch was soon dedicated to Dr. Williams to recognize her decades-long devotion to the community's education.
The Friends of the Parker Williams Branch Library was officially incorporated in April 1990. While it took the County a few more years to complete the building, the Friends gave fundraising campaigns to support the purchase of additional books and supplies.
The grand opening of the Parker Williams Branch Library took place on Sunday, November 14, 1993.
County Commissioner El Franco Lee, County Judge John Lindsay, and San Jacinto College Chancellor Tom Sewell spoke at the ceremony, highlighting Dr. Williams and the community leaders who had worked so hard over the last several years to ensure the library's construction.
HCPL Director Cathy Park introduced the staff of the new branch, including Branch Librarian Carol Lee.
The new branch was the largest in the system, with more than 35,000 volumes. The branch offered a wide selection of audiotapes, videos, and books on tape. It also held special collections in Spanish and Vietnamese.
A map of its location, as well as the other 24 branches open at the time, can be seen here.
Friends of the Parker Williams Branch Library officers in 1994.
The branch finally received a sign for the front of the building in the spring of 1994, almost six months after opening. The sign was an important addition, as a second Parker Williams Library was under construction nearby at the San Jacinto College-South Campus.
The Friends held regular book sales to raise funds to supplement the collection at the branch. The proceeds also allowed the Friends to host local author receptions.
In November 1994, the library celebrated its first birthday. The library had reached the following milestones:
100,000 books circulated
7,000 new customers signed up for a library card
13,200 questions answered
350 books read in storytime
50 volunteer literacy tutors trained
Children's events from the 1995 Summer Reading Program.
Christmas celebration at the branch in December 1997.
The Friends-sponsored float for the branch in a 1998 Fourth of July parade.
Branch Librarian Carol Lee moved into an administrative role in August 1998, and Karen Akkerman became the new branch librarian.
Storytime programs in 1998.
The branch celebrated its 5th anniversary on November 15, 1998. Through the hard work of staff and the Friends, the branch was thriving and the shelves were full.
The Friends held a Brown Bag Book Sale in March 1999. The event was so popular that nearly all of the books sold out in the first two hours.
In 1999, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts set up a traveling library exhibition at the branch. Titled, From Playful Pups to Feathered Serpents: Animals in Ancient Mesoamerican Art, the exhibit explored the intimate relationship between ancient Mesoamericans and the animal world.
Dr. Williams died in August 2004 at age 75.
"I think you can learn can learn from the community and the community can learn from you."
An animal program featuring "The Snake Man" Thomas Davis at the branch in June 2011.
Parker Williams Branch staff dressed up for Halloween in 2012.
The branch celebrated its 20th anniversary on October 24, 2013, with a party and cake. Children decorated gift bags during the event that they could fill with goodies to take home.
Lunar New Year Festival program at the branch on January 25, 2014. The branch brought in the Year of the Horse with a party. Attendees practiced calligraphy with posters, calendars, and red envelopes.
Branch Librarian Mary Murray retired in April 2017 after 23 years at the branch. Murray had been part of the Parker Williams staff when the branch opened in 1993 and had served as the branch manager for 15 years. Murray can be seen in the center of this photograph, with the first branch librarian Carol Lee (left) and the second branch librarian Karen Akkerman (right).
Mike Saperstein was named the new manager of the Parker Williams branch.
Storytime with Santa Claus at the branch in December 2018.
The Texas Library Association launched the Libraries Transform Texas public awareness campaign in 2019 to promote how libraries of all types are transforming Texas. TLA created "Because..." statements to describe why libraries are essential to the Lone Star State. Parker Williams staff members John Harbaugh and Celeste Plew hold their "Because..." statements at the 2019 TLA Annual Conference.
In September 2019, the branch received new flooring. The old carpets were torn out and replaced with new tile. The branch remained open during the construction, with books moving around the building as the work progressed.
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 Parker Williams Branch Library opened in November 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 interior of the branch in February 2020. The new floor brightened up the branch.
When the building closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Parker Williams Branch staff continued to provide the best service possible, utilizing options such as curbside service (seen here) and creating book bundles for customers. Parker Williams Branch staff also filmed many virtual programs and storytimes through Facebook and Microsft Teams. Archived copies of some programs can be found on the branch's Facebook page.
The branch owns the most extensive collection of Vietnamese materials in the HCPL system, with books for adults and children, and hundreds of DVDs available for borrowing.
The branch reopened to the public on May 19, 2021. After a challenging year, the library is back in business.