CELEBRATING 100 YEARS: County libraries provide service in spite of Pandemic


By Jada Mier

Harris County Branch Libraries Celebrates 100 years of Service and Continue modified services during the Pandemic.

This year HCPL celebrates the library’s first one hundred years and its commitment to remain a vital and vibrant asset for the people of Harris County.

Edward Melton, HCPL’s Executive Director, says, “The growth, progress and innovation you see in the library’s story over its first one hundred years mirrors that of Harris County.”

In preparation for their Centennial, HCPL librarians, for the first time, began systematically collecting and digitizing materials to document the library’s history. Their efforts resulted in the HCPL Digital Archive, an ongoing collection of photos, articles, scrapbooks, and videos of HCPL since 1921. Each month in 2021, the Archive will present digital exhibits to tell a specific story – bookmobiles, important people at HCPL, hurricanes and other disasters. It will also feature each of HCPL’s 26 branches throughout 2021, with detailed timelines that trace the library’s century long commitment to serve Harris County residents.

Although Harris County Branch Libraries have been closed to the public since the end of March 2020, the libraries have had alternatively a strong online presence by posting virtual programs to Facebook and Instagram pages. Since people can no longer walk into library buildings to browse books or utilize the rows of computers, the new curbside services have made it possible for citizens to still obtain materials and print needed documents.

Stratford, North channel, Jacinto City, Galena Park, High Meadows, and Aldine are only six of the twenty-six Harris County Branches that have adapted their services to meet their community’s needs. Two of their most successful system-wide programs include Book Buddies and their Career Online High School scholarships. In the Career Online High School scholarship, the students earn an accredited high school diploma while gaining real-world career training through a flexible, supportive, online education program. Book Buddies switched from a branch-run program to a county-wide program, opening the program for Little Buddies all over Harris County. Book Buddies at Home is a free program that brings children in K-3rd grade (Little Buddies) and HCPL staff (Big Buddies) together to share the joy of reading in a safe online environment. For 10 weeks, the buddies met once a week for 30 minutes of one-on-one shared reading on Teams.

The first thing to change across the board was how patrons were able to get their physical items. Employees of branch libraries are doing phone-in reference and checkout work. Through Harris County Public Library’s online catalogue, patrons are able to browse books, movies and CDs, and call the branch directly to have items checked out. After the patron calls the branch of their choice, all that is left to do is to drive to the location and pick up the requested items.

Printing services work almost exactly the same way. It is an all-online process. At each branch, there is a poster explaining in detail how to print out documents directly from any device. Once a patron has uploaded their document and necessary funds through PayPal, the only thing left to do is call the branch and provide them with their library card number so that an HCPL employee can take their documents to them.

Book and movie bundles are also a service offered by each branch. Patrons can request a customized assortment of books through Harris County’s website Hcpl.net and pick them up once they receive a conformation email or phone call.

The library’s mission has always been to service the community, and the pandemic has not stopped their mission. It has simply changed how they complete it.

Highlands STRATFORD: 832-927-5400
Address: 509 Stratford St, Highlands, TX 77562

Channelview NORTH CHANNEL: 832-927-5500
Address: 15741 Wallisville Rd, Houston, TX 77049

Jacinto City: 832-927- 5520
Address: 921 Akron St, Houston, TX 77029

Galena Park: 832-927- 5470
Address: 1500 Keene St, Galena Park, TX 77547

Aldine HIGH MEADOWS: 821-590-1456
Address: 4500 Aldine Mail Rte Rd, Houston, TX 77039

Aldine ALDINE: 832- 927- 5410
Address: 11331 Airline Dr, Houston, TX 77037