We are a dynamic organization that serves one of the largest service areas – both population and area – in the country. 2.3 million residents in the City of Houston are the primary beneficiaries of a comprehensive customer-focused service delivery strategy.
Our system consists of 44 public service units which include one Central Library, five Regional Libraries, 29 Neighborhood and Express Libraries, three History Research Centers, three TECHLinks, one Satellite location at Children’s Museum Houston, one cafécollege center, and one Mobile Express.
Houston Public Library is a vital member of a dynamic & diverse, local, national & global community.
Meet Our Administration
Rhea Lawson, Ph.D., Executive Director
Dr. Lawson has served as the Executive Director of the Houston Public Library (HPL) since 2005. She is keenly focused on ensuring that public libraries in general and HPL in particular, remain essential to the quality of life in communities. The library system is continuously evolving and moving forward to a comprehensive, innovative platform of services and programs that meet the rapidly changing needs of Houston’s residents and the digital environment.
Ricardo Peralez, Chief Operating Officer
Ricardo “Rick” Peralez is responsible for managing the daily operations and services of HPL by leading and coordinating organizational resources to effectively and efficiently provide stellar customer service. Rick has a wealth of experience in both the library and technology industries. He joined HPL in 2015 as Assistant Director and CTO of Digital Strategies. In 2020, Rick was named Deputy Director of Customer Experience with oversight of all library locations. In 2022, Rick was named Chief Operating Officer with oversight over all public facing operations and services.
John Middleton, Assistant Director - Spaces
John Middleton rejoined HPL in 2013 and serves as Assistant Director of Spaces for HPL. John’s responsibilities include overseeing and coordinating the multiple components involved with managing HPL’s Capital Improvement Projects and budget. Additionally, he oversees facilities management and security, interfacing with the General Services Department, other City of Houston departments and offices, and community groups.
Hope Obika, Assistant Director - Chief Financial Officer
Hope Obika has over 20 years of combined work experience in accounting, finance and leadership. She leads the Financial Services Division to analyze, interpret and compile financial data that meet specific regulation and management requirements for both government and public accounting. She establishes and monitors accounting and financial policies and procedures for HPL as well as directs all internal and external audits.
Roberto Zapata, Assistant Director - Customer Experience
Roberto Zapata rejoined HPL in 2018 as a Senior Manager of Neighborhood Libraries. In his current role as Assistant Director of Central and Neighborhood Libraries, he provides leadership and oversight for all neighborhood libraries and the Central Library. His priority is to ensure that all customers have a great and memorable experience at the library through the services, programs, and above all, the staff.
Patrick Atkins, Deputy Assistant Director - Materials Acquisition, Fleet & Systemwide Training
Patrick joined HPL in 2007, and worked over ten years in Customer Experience before taking on the role of manager of the Library Materials Services unit. He now oversees the selection, processing and cataloging of all new materials both print and digital as well as circulation administration and Interlibrary Loan. Using this knowledge of the community and the collection, he is leading the frontline staff training program for the organization.
Ophelia Gomes, Deputy Assistant Director - Systemwide Programs
Ophelia Gomes joined the City of Houston's Human Resources Department in 2000, and later joined the Houston Public Library in 2005. She has lead the Library HR team, the Organizational Development team and serves as a member of the Executive Leadership Team. In her current role, Ophelia is responsible for providing leadership, direction and oversight of the System-wide Program team. Additionally, she leads the Community Education & Learning team with the aim of elevating customer experience through engaging and meaningful programs and educational experiences.
LaDonna Weems, Deputy Assistant Director - Communications
LaDonna Weems joined HPL in 2019, bringing her background in technology, project management and marketing to provide creative and visionary leadership to HPL’s portfolio of customer services. She is responsible for strategic communications, innovative marketing, and virtual customer experiences. She is an advocate for creating compelling campaigns and user-centric digital experiences. She provides executive leadership to teams dedicated to driving HPL brand messaging and recognizing HPL as an innovative leader in providing equitable access to resources, services, learning and engagement.
Laurie Covington, Manager – Statistics, Grants & Business Intelligence
Laurie Covington is an experienced library professional and leader who joined Houston Public Library in 1999. She currently serves as the Statistics and Business Intelligence Manager for HPL. She uses her extensive knowledge of libraries and library operations to collect data and analyze statistical trends across the organization. She benchmarks the library industry to develop business intelligence for strategic planning and data driven decisions. Laurie also plays a lead role in HPL’s staffing and hiring processes along with City of Houston Human Resources Department.
Toni Jenkins, Executive Assistant
Toni Jenkins is the point person, providing a high-level of professionalism, customer service and management for the office of the executive director since 2007. Toni has a wealth of diverse experience in Public Administration obtained through 30 years of employment with the City of Houston in several departments and in various executive administrative roles.
The advocate and fundraising champion who strives with us to provide equitable access, bridge the technology gap, increase literacy, and connect you to lifelong learning.