HOUSTON, TX. January 20, 2020 – In 1921 when Lucy Fuller, Harris County Public Library’s first Head Librarian, was provided $6500 with which to stock library stations in post offices, schools, businesses and private homes across the county, she probably did not imagine that her eventual successors would preside over a collection exceeding 1.8 million items. Nor could she have envisioned that HCPL libraries would one day house computers, 3D printers, laser cutters, family learning centers and that they would provide thousands of programs annually ranging from story times and cooking classes to escape rooms and variety shows. But through the succeeding years, HCPL has remained true to Lucy Fuller’s core mission to provide information and resources that enrich lives and strengthen Harris County communities.
The Year of the Library
Harris County Commissioners Court plans to proclaim 2021 The Year of the Library in Harris County in recognition of the library’s first one hundred years and its commitment to remain a vital and vibrant asset for the people of Harris County.
“We see our Centennial as a celebration of the history of Harris County as a whole and especially of the everyday people who shaped that history,” said Edward Melton, HCPL’s Executive Director, “The growth, progress and innovation you see in the library’s story over its first one hundred years mirrors that of Harris County.”
As the name suggests, Harris County Public Library plans a yearlong celebration of its first 100 years and the people who shaped and continue to shape it.
HCPL Digital Archive
In preparation for the Centennial, HCPL librarians, for the first time, began systematically collecting and digitizing materials to document the library’s history. Their efforts resulted in the HCPL Digital Archive, an ongoing collection of photos, articles, scrapbooks, and videos of HCPL since 1921. Each month in 2021, the Archive will present digital exhibits to tell a specific story – bookmobiles, important people at HCPL, hurricanes and other disasters. It will also feature each of HCPL’s 26 branches throughout 2021, with detailed timelines that trace the library’s century long commitment to serve Harris County residents.
The Library’s Story Is Your Story
Libraries change lives in big and small ways. HCPL staff knows this because people tell them about how an HCPL literacy tutor or just the right book at the right time has changed their lives for the better. In conjunction with the Digital Archive project, the library, for the first time, will begin to systematically collect those stories. Early in 2021, the library will launch an initiative modeled on StoryCorps which you may have heard on broadcasts of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. Patrons will record their stories with help from HCPL staff on Microsoft Teams and the library will collect and publish them via social media and the HCPL website.
What’s a Celebration without Music and Fun?
HCPL’s Programming Department and staff have been planning for the centennial celebration for months. Each month in 2021, the library will release a new original video highlighting each decade of the library’s existence. To go along with the in-house productions, the library plans to host live music performances—online for now—by local and national acts. The first of these will be January 20 at 6:30 PM on Facebook Live with the premiere screening of HCPL’s production of A Library is Born, a Chaplinesque silent film followed by a 1920s style hot jazz concert with the Boomtown Brass Band. In February, for African American History Month, in partnership with Apollo Chamber Players, two nationally known composers, Paul Cornish and Damien Snead, will debut musical pieces in celebration of the library’s first 100 years.
“Our libraries are shared spaces where people from all walks of life are welcomed and encouraged to explore their own pathways to knowledge,” said Melton, “HCPL’s Centennial Year of the Library is an opportunity for everyone to share the sense of community we try every day to create,”
For more information about Harris County Public Library’s Centennial Celebration, visit www.hcpl.net and follow @harriscountypl on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This blog was written by Nancy H. and first appeared January 2021.