It’s an exciting time for library lovers! In honor of National Library Week, which runs through April 9, we’re tipping our red hats off to Houston’s finest libraries and the passionate people who lead them.
Founded in the early 1900s, the Houston Public Library system has serviced Houston with a network of more than 40 locations, including neighborhood branches, special collections, express and TECH Link sites.
And this year is ripe for the HPL, with reopenings, major renovations and a new branch in Westbury named after living astronaut Dr. Shannon Walker.
Just two weeks ago, the HPL began to relaunch in-person programming after two years of closures and limited services.
“We always want to hear what people have to say and make sure we’re connected to what their needs are,” Roberto Zapata, the HPL’s assistant director, tells houstonia. “We want to be responsive. Our goal is to be embedded in the community.”
Below is a list of outstanding neighborhood libraries in Houston worth a visit:
Jesse H. Jones Building Central
500 McKinney St., Houston, TX 77002 (832) 393-1313
No list of libraries in Houston is complete without mention of the HPL’s flagship location in the heart of Downtown Houston. It’s housed in the Jesse H. Jones Building with four publicly accessible floors. Last fall, Central celebrated the opening of the Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza, an outdoor activity space that will host movie screenings, performances, festivals and more. Central’s collection contains 537,750 items, and its 22,000 square foot space welcomed 642,000 visitors before the pandemic. The entire first floor was completely reimagined with open stacks, a baby grand piano for impromptu performances and a “Lucky Day” collection filled with popular books that visitors can check out without being waitlisted.
Flores Neighborhood Library
110 N. Milby St., (832) 393-1780
The Flores Library was closed for four years because of Hurricane Harvey and has finally reopened. Although the library has a variety of world language books, It is mostly known for its extensive collection of Spanish and children’s books. The Flores Library was named after the Rev. Patricio F. Flores, Archbishop of San Antonio, who served as a priest in the Houston-Galveston area between 1950 and 1960 and was active in programs for Houston’s Hispanic community. Currently, there is a regular storytime program on Tuesday mornings, ESL classes beginning once a week this month, a citizenship preparation class and a family STEM program beginning in May.
Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library
4100 Montrose Blvd., (832) 393-1800
Named after the late critic and local arts supporter, Eleanor Freed Stern, the Freed-Montrose branch services Houston’s LGBTQIA+ community. It’s embedded within the neighborhood with lush foliage climbing the 70-year-old building. The stained-glass windows on the library’s second floor are a nod to its origin as a church, which was donated to the HPL. Although loved for its charm, Freed-Montrose will be moving into its new home in the recently developed Montrose Collective in 2023.
Heights Neighborhood Library
1302 Heights Blvd., (832) 393-1810
As one of the first libraries built in Houston, the Heights Neighborhood Library is an architectural gem. At the entryway, you’ll see a bronze plaque that commemorates Jimmie May Hicks, the Heights’ beloved librarian from 1930 to1940. Most of the research in the book The History of Houston Heights 1891-1918 (1975) by Sister M. Agatha came from Hicks’ collection of research. The staff is friendly and the books are well organized, with a fine selection of fiction and nonfiction. The outdoor storytime program is weekly on Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 to 10:30 am
Henington-Alief Regional Library
7979 S. Kirkwood Road, (832) 393-1820
The Henington-Alief branch services the needs of Houston’s most ethnically diverse area. It honors the dedication of former HPL director David M. Henington, who grew the library system by 22 branches during his two-decade tenure. Henington-Alief is also preparing for a new, open-concept, two-story building this summer that will include a mini TECH link and updated community space. This location hosts a weekly storytime with spooky tales, families and toddler playtime.
Looscan River Oaks
2510 Willowick Road, (832) 393-1900
This branch is named after writer and women’s society leader Adele Briscoe Looscan, who was known as a key descendant of one of the founders of Harris County. It’s located right across the street from the River Oaks shopping center and holds the second-largest inventory to Central with a special collection dedicated to gardening housed in the architecturally striking Emily Scott and Joseph Wood Evans Clock Tower.
Shepard-Acres Homes Neighborhood Library
8501 W. Montgomery Road, (832) 393-1700
With the help of Beulah Shepard, a community activist and resident of the Acres Homes neighborhood, the Shepard-Acres Homes Neighborhood Library became a community staple. Earning a reputation as “the person to call to get things done” and often known as the unofficial “mayor of Acres Homes,” Shepard was integral in many neighborhood improvements, including the library. Shepard-Acres Homes Library has an array of programs for families and youth, such as Retro Games — a nostalgic event where you can play some of your childhood board game favorites. Other programs include Family Storytime, Family STEM and Family Crafts.
Stanaker Neighborhood Library
611 S. Sgt. Macario Garcia Drive, (832) 393-2080
Stanaker Neighborhood Library is named after civic leader Nena E. Stanaker, who served the neighborhood for more than 50 years. Coining the name the “mayor of the East End,” Stanaker created and maintained a volunteer-based library program for the benefit of East End neighborhood children. The library currently has a Crafts for Kids program every Wednesday from 4 to 5 pm, and carries a large selection of Spanish language books, picture books and nonfiction adult books.
Walter Neighborhood Library
7660 Clarewood Drive, (832) 393-2500
The Walter Neighborhood Library is named after ME Walter, a World War I veteran who came to Houston after the war to begin a newspaper career. In his last years of work, I have retired as vice president of the Houston Chronicle. The library has a colorful collection of fiction and at this time — due to COVID-19 and being a smaller branch of the HPL — does not have any in-house events.
Young Neighborhood Library
5107 Griggs Road, (832) 393-2140
Planted in Southeast Houston, this branch is named after political figure and women’s rights advocate Alice McKean Young. Keeping with the legacy of advocacy, the community is (literally) at the center of this recently renovated location, with its open concept design and central meeting space. Young neighbor Kipp Academy is instrumental in engaging kids and students with after-school storytimes, screenings, activities and more.
To find your local library and for more information, visit here.