It’s an exciting time for library lovers! In honor of National Library Week, which runs until April 9, we’re throwing our red hats to Houston’s top libraries and the passionate people who run them.
Founded in the early 1900s, the Houston Public Library System has served Houston with a network of over 40 locations, including neighborhood branches, special collections, express sites, and TECH Link.
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 relaunching 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 their needs,” said Roberto Zapata, HPL deputy director. Houstonia. “We want to be responsive. Our goal is to be integrated into the community.
Below is a list of exceptional neighborhood libraries in Houston that are worth checking out:
Jesse H. Jones Central Building
500 McKinney Street, Houston, TX 77002 (832) 393-1313
No list of libraries in Houston is complete without mentioning HPL’s flagship location in the heart of downtown Houston. It is located in the Jesse H. Jones Building with four floors accessible to the public. Last fall, Central celebrated the opening of the Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza, an outdoor activity space that will host film 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 has been completely redesigned with open stacks, a grand piano for impromptu performances, and a “Lucky Day” collection filled with popular books that visitors can peruse without being on a waiting list.
Flores Neighborhood Library
110 N. Milby St., (832) 393-1780
The Flores Library was closed for four years due to Hurricane Harvey and has finally reopened. Although the library has a variety of books in world languages, it is best known for its extensive collection of Spanish and children’s books. The Flores Library was named after the Reverend 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 the Hispanic community of Houston . Currently, there is a regular storytime program on Tuesday mornings, ESL classes starting once a week this month, a citizenship preparation course, and a STEM family program starting in May.
Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library
4100, boul. Montrose, (832) 393-1800
Named after the late local arts critic and supporter, Eleanor Freed Stern, the Freed-Montrose branch serves Houston’s LGBTQIA+ community. It is integrated into the neighborhood with lush vegetation climbing over 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 beloved for its charm, Freed-Montrose will move into its new home in the newly 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 entrance, you’ll see a bronze plaque that commemorates Jimmie May Hicks, the Heights’ beloved librarian from 1930 to 1940. Most searches in the book The History of Houston Heights 1891-1918 (1975) by Sister M. Agatha is from the Hicks Research Collection. The staff are friendly and the books are well organized, with a nice selection of fiction and non-fiction. The outdoor storytime program is weekly on Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Henington-Alief Regional Library
7979 S. Kirkwood Road, (832) 393-1820
The Henington-Alief branch serves 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 decades in office. Henington-Alief is also preparing a new two-story open-concept building this summer that will include a mini TECH link and an updated community space. This place hosts a weekly story hour with spooky tales, families and hours of playtime for toddlers.
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 Harris County’s founders. It is located directly across from the River Oaks Mall and holds the second largest inventory after Central with a special collection dedicated to gardening housed in the architecturally notable 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 has become a community staple. Earning a reputation as the “one to call to get things done” and often known as the “unofficial mayor of Acres Homes”, Shepard was instrumental in many neighborhood improvements, including the library. The Shepard-Acres Homes Library offers a range of programs for families and young people, such as Retro Games – a nostalgic event where you can play some of your childhood favorite board games. Other programs include Family Storytime, Family STEM, and Family Crafts.
Stanaker Neighborhood Library
611 S. Sgt Macario Garcia Drive, (832) 393-2080
The Stanaker Neighborhood Library is named after civic leader Nena E. Stanaker, who served the neighborhood for more than 50 years. Coining the name “Mayor of the East End”, Stanaker established and maintained a volunteer library program to benefit children in the East End neighborhood. The library currently offers a Crafts for Kids program every Wednesday from 4-5pm, and offers a wide selection of Spanish language books, picture books and non-fiction 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 career in the press. In his final years on the job, he retired as vice president of the Houston Chronicle. The library has a colorful collection of fiction and at present – due to COVID-19 and being a small branch of the HPL – has no internal events.
Young Neighborhood Library
5107 Griggs Road, (832) 393-2140
Based in southeast Houston, this branch is named after political figure and women’s rights advocate Alice McKean Young. In keeping with Advocacy’s legacy, the community is (literally) at the center of this newly renovated venue, with its open-plan design and central meeting space. Young neighbor Kipp Academy is instrumental in engaging children and students with after-school story times, screenings, activities and more.
To find your local library and for more information, visit here.