state of the libraries in harris county

Libraries are turning the page
Seeing a need to compete with bookstore chains, officials here and elsewhere modernize services

— reported by the Houston Chronicle


Taking a page from the competition — the mega bookstore chains — today’s public libraries are shedding traditions to attract the 21st century consumer.

Patrons can check out laptops for in-house use, take a knitting or English as a second language class, participate in community forums, enjoy public artwork and download books.

At the Houston Library’s central branch downtown, a $14.9 million renovation will go beyond the building, newly appointed Director Rhea Lawson says.

Plans for the central library include a job and education center, a world language collection and a small business support center.

“When we open, you are going to wonder where you are,” Lawson said. “Are you in a Barnes & Noble or are you in the library? There are many people in the community who don’t use us and we want to change that. We want to reach a variety of audiences. I think libraries have been pigeon-holed too long.”

The central library location will even contain a cafe where snacks can be purchased.


“American public libraries are experiencing a renaissance. People are finding their way back to the libraries,” said Leslie Burger, president-elect of the American Library Association and director of the Princeton (N.J.) Public Library. “They are becoming a place for multigenerational interaction.”


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