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Local civil rights icon and founder of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church Reverend William "Bill" Lawson passed away on May 14, 2024, leaving a rich and celebrated legacy. If you would like to learn more about Reverend Lawson, HPL Digital Archives offer some fascinating primary sources.

Our Audiovisual Archives contain two interviews with Reverend Lawson: one originally recorded in 1974, and a second interview from 2008 (from the Mayor Bill White Oral History Collection) which was also videotaped. These two interviews provide a fascinating historical perspective on his work and life in Houston during the years of the Civil Rights Movement.

Reverend Lawson, Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza and Rabbi Samuel Karff were known as the "Three Amigos" or "Three Wise Men" for their decades-long friendship and interfaith activism in favor of human rights and the betterment of life for all Houstonians. Archbishop Fiorenza and Rabbi Karff were also interviewed in 2008 and 2007 respectively as part of the Mayor White Oral History Collection. 

In December 2015, Reverend Lawson was predeceased by his wife of 61 years, Mrs. Audrey Ann Hoffman Lawson. Mrs. Lawson's funeral program is part of HPL Digital Archives' African American Funeral Program collection and provides a unique perspective into her career as an activist in her own right, and the love and family that she and Reverend Lawson shared. 

The Lawson Collection, or “Lawson Letters,” not only document Reverend William and Mrs. Audrey Hoffman Lawson’s young adulthood and courtship, they also were the primary means of courtship. Beginning in September 1952, young Bill and Audrey exchanged letters for months before ever meeting in person, and what began as a friendly dialogue blossomed into love during the next two years of correspondence. Later in life, Reverend and Mrs. Lawson made their letters available to HPL for digitization. They are available online, an indispensable resource for historians—and anyone who appreciates a great love story!

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In response to the murder of George Floyd, Houston Public Library's African American History Research Center (AAHRC) launched the George Floyd Lecture Series to foster difficult yet crucial conversations about racial equity and social justice.

 

Join us on Thursday, May 23, 2024, at Noon – 2 p.m., for a riveting conversation with guest speaker Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry. Register now or continue reading full media alert.

05/14/2024

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Houston Public Library (HPL) is opening two new Family Place Libraries™ locations at Alief-David M. Henington Regional Library and Jungman Neighborhood Library. A ribbon cutting for the two new locations will take place on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 from 11 AM to 12 PM at Alief-David M. Henington Regional Library. Guest speakers at the event include Houston City Council member Tiffany Thomas of District F, Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation President and CEO Dr. Julie Baker Finck, and Julie Sudduth, Regional President of PNC Bank Houston. 

Thanks to generous grant support from the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and PNC Foundation, the new Family Place Libraries™ have specifically designed spaces featuring welcoming areas with interactive early literacy materials, games, toys, and books. The HPL team will be provided with exclusive training to expand programs for toddlers and their families.

Read full media alert Houston Public Library Expands its Family Place Program.

As part of our 120th Birthday celebration, we asked our customers to share the books that they love, and to tell us why they love them. The response was amazing! We received more than 120 replies and had to narrow them down to a representative list of 120, which wasn't easy. We've learned that there are all sorts of different reasons to love a book, and that our customers really love historical and fantasy fiction!

The 120 Books YOU Love list links to catalog records for each title, making it easier for anyone to find new titles to love, or to re-visit an old favorite. It's grouped into different genres and age levels, and has a little something for everyone, much like the library itself.

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What book or books would you select for your perfect book club, and who would you invite for the discussion? In honor of Earth Day, we asked Steve Stelzer, Program Director of the City of Houston’s Green Building Resource Center (GBRC) and veteran book club organizer, this question.

I’m passionate about the environment. It started with my days as a Boy Scout developing a love of nature in the Adirondacks. I became an architect and later a LEED Accredited Professional with the US Green Building Council, which led to my job with the City of Houston in 2007. I’m a true believer that any conversation or seminar’s potential to change people’s minds pales in comparison to what they would get from a book.

People have to commit their time to a book, which is finely crafted with well-sequenced arguments and can include visual aids. Not to mention that reading improves brain health. I started making business-card-sized booklists in 2003, have used books in seminars and presentations, and I have a current booklist on the GBRC website and a Facebook Page called the Houston Green Book Discussion Group.

Book clubs have been a wonderful study of human nature for me. I started the Blind Men and the Elephant book club in 2009 and held it in the original GBRC in Midtown. I started another one at the Houston Permitting Center in 2012, and later I partnered with Houston Public Library (HPL) for a lunchtime book club. I found some people would be “too busy” to read the books, and still come to the meeting just to hear what the others had to say about them, which shocked me. My lesson is that groups are temporary, and that people come and go, like life, and some people are drawn to communities of like-minded people.

My three favorite books to recommend are The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard, Saving Us by Katherine Hayhoe, and Regeneration by Paul Hawken. These authors are my climate heroes. Annie Leonard is the leader of Greenpeace. Climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe helped Houston develop our Climate Action Plan; her book masterfully deals with communication (and miscommunication) about the climate. Paul Hawken’s books are pillars of sustainability. This one talks about how industry can accomplish its goals in a way that regenerates planetary ecosystems.

My ideal book club members would be Rachel Carson, Al Gore, Malcolm Gladwell, Erin Brockovich, Don Miguel Ruiz, and Van Jones. Rachel started the modern environmental movement with her book Silent Spring. Thanks to her, we have the EPA. I’ve read all Al Gore’s books; his 1992 Earth in the Balance got me going, and The Assault on Reason pushed me towards thinking more about our political system. Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point continues to give me hope that we could collectively improve society and the planet. Erin Brockovich’s Superman’s Not Coming did not disappoint, detailing the multitude of bad decisions leading to water pollution nightmares, including Flint, Michigan. Don Miguel Ruiz of The Four Agreements and The Fifth Agreement opened my eyes with fantastic metaphors. And finally, Van Jones lives up to his environmental and social justice rock star reputation with Beyond the Messy Truth. His viewpoint as a southern Black man and experience in the White House would enhance conversation.

I imagine a library in heaven, where these authors would talk about their books and their experiences, and I expect the camaraderie would be exquisite. I’d want people from my book clubs over the years to be a part of the discussion, as well. Hopefully I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with joy and could actually join in, because in heaven I would have perfect recall.

04/11/2024

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Houston Public Library (HPL) is excited to announce the reopening of the Eleanor Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library on Monday, April 15, 2024. Operating hours will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., marking a significant milestone in the City’s commitment to serving the community.

A mini-event will kick off the festivities starting at 10 a.m. and include brief remarks from city officials followed by a storytime, craft time, 120th-anniversary limited-edition card sign-up, and book giveaways. 

While specific areas will be restricted to the public for safety reasons, reopening services will include a range of resources and amenities. Customers will have access to a collection of books, e-resources, engaging programs, a meeting space, computers, print services, and outdoor Wi-Fi.

The Freed-Montrose Library temporarily closed last month because of facility safety concerns. Following the closure, Mayor John Whitmire asked members of the library administration to meet with stakeholders and create a plan to safely reopen the building and welcome back the public to a beloved space for learning, discovery and cultural enrichment.

After careful consideration and invaluable customer feedback, the operations were extended at the Freed-Montrose Library, reaffirming HPL's dedication to providing continued access to the library's invaluable resources and services. 

Nestled in the heart of the vibrant Montrose community, Freed-Montrose has been a cherished institution and hub for learning, exploration, and community engagement for years. 

According to the City's General Services Department, a specific date for the grand opening of the new library at 1001 California Street will be determined after substantial completion of the project’s construction.

04/11/2024

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Don't miss this interview with Manager Sylvia Espinosa about Houston Public Library's 120th birthday and legacy on City Savvy, the monthly newsletter for City of Houston Employees. 

03/27/2024

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Houston Public Library (HPL) regrets to inform its valued customers of the impending closure of the Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library located at 4100 Montrose Blvd. The library will cease operations at the end of business hours on Thursday, March 28, 2024. 

This decision is due to ongoing safety and facility issues that cannot be resolved in a timely manner. Among the workplace safety concerns, the elevator's non-functionality renders the second floor inaccessible to the public, as it does not comply with ADA accessibility standards. However, HPL is excited to announce plans for a new and improved library facility to better serve the community, anticipated to open in Fall 2024.

During the closure, customers can still utilize the book drop for returns until April 4, 2024. HPL encourages customers to explore alternate library locations and online services for their reading and informational needs.

Construction is already underway for the new Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library, which will be in the Montrose Collective mixed-use shopping center at 1001 California Street, 77006. The new location is anticipated to open in Fall 2024, providing the community with an upgraded and modern library experience and expanded hours.

"We understand the inconvenience this closure may cause, but please know that we are completely focused on providing a better equipped and more accessible library facility for our customers," said Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, Executive Director at Houston Public Library.

The nearest library branches to the Montrose community during this transition period are:

  • Central Library, located 2.6 miles away at 500 McKinney St., 77002 | Phone: 832-393-1313
  • Smith Neighborhood Library, located 3.0 miles away at 3624 Scott St., 77004 | Phone: 832-393-2050
  • Looscan Neighborhood Library, located 3.6 miles away at 2510 Willowick Rd., 77027 | Phone: 832-393-1900

HPL remains committed to keeping patrons informed throughout the transition process and will provide updates on the progress of the new building as more information becomes available. 

"Although the doors may close, the knowledge and memories shared within the walls of Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library will forever endure. I look forward to welcoming customers to the new library later this year," added Lawson.

For more information or assistance, customers can contact Ask HPL customer service online or call 832-393-1313.

03/21/2024

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The Houston Chronicle published an article about HPL's 120 Year celebrations on March 20. The article mentions the commemorative library cards and parties, the Books You Love survey project, and more.

 

03/21/2024

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Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson made an appearance on Channel 13's morning news show on March 19 to speak about HPL's 120th birthday and its promotion of literacy.

The HPL segment starts at about the 38:12 mark of this recorded episode.

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