Library sets anniversary celebration

The Ector County Library plans to host its 85th anniversary celebration Aug. 1 starting with cake, harp music and camaraderie followed by a Friends book sale. Festivities start at 2 p.m. (Courtesy Photo)

Ector County Library has a big milestone coming up — its 85th anniversary.

To celebrate, the library, at 321 W. Fifth St., is hosting festivities Aug. 1. There will be “cake, chorale and camaraderie” starting at 2 p.m. and then a Friends book sale in the basement from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Amber Stewart, managing librarian of the Southwest History Department, has been collecting historical photos, scanning old scrapbooks and putting them into a PowerPoint presentation to be shown during the anniversary.

“I have newspaper articles and pictures dating back to the ‘30s that I’m mostly just getting together to show the different decades of the star and the buildings and then also gathering the 85 facts about the library,” Stewart said.

The 85 facts go with the 85th anniversary and one will be posted on social media daily.

The library’s website says that in 1938 several women’s clubs, including Odessa Book Club, “persuaded the county to refurbish the old courthouse-square jail as Odessa’s first public library.”

Stewart said the cost to remodel the jail was $609 in 1938, but the current building was over $1 million.

“From 1938 to 1942 Lila White served as organizing librarian. Started with 800 donated books, the collection tripled within one year and a children’s section was added. In 1942 a new library was constructed at 622 N. Lee. From 1943 to 1963 under librarian Velma Barrett, circulation swelled and the building expanded in 1957. It functioned 39 years until a burgeoning 300,000 item inventory required a larger space at 321 West 5th in 1981.”

Stewart said there was an African-American branch of the library during segregation that Gertrude Bruce headed. The Gertrude Bruce Historical Cultural Center has one of the library rooms in it, Stewart believes.

“Their very first building they actually took two outhouses and made it into a room. … That one lasted from 1948 to 1960 because after they shut it down, they actually moved Miss Gertrude Bruce over to the main library. She stayed until like ’69. They started integrating at that point,” Stewart said.

She noted that there was better documentation in earlier times.

At one point, the library was No. 10 in the state in terms of circulation, even larger than Lubbock.

She also found that the genealogical department was formed 61 years ago.

There was a deal with the Midland library where they were supposed to focus on the petroleum aspect and Ector County on the genealogical. But the Midland library got a large donor for their genealogical studies.

The head of the Ector historical society was John Ben Shepperd.

The current four-story, 47,000-square-foot structure was a medical building constructed in 1960. The four stories includes the basement.

Director of Library Services Howard Marks said about 15,000 square feet is not usable due to a boiler room, electrical rooms, closets and stairways.

Marks said it’s his understanding that the library moved to its current location in 1981 from what was Dee’s Bistro on Lee Avenue.

The library building now in the works will be 50,000 square feet and two stories tall. It is being designed by the architecture firm Parkhill.

Planning for the library anniversary just began this summer.

“There was a toss-up. Our library was founded Aug. 1,” Marks said.

But Stewart said the first book checked out was in early October. But it was decided to have the celebration in August as people will soon be going back to school and October is busier.

“We know our local audience will turn out for it,” Marks said.

He added that he and the 10-member advisory committee have been meeting with Parkhill. The last meeting will be in December with Parkhill making its recommendation.

“It’s going well. We actually submitted our recommendations to them,” Marks said.

There are a myriad of ideas for the new facility.

“It’s very exciting. I think people are going to be really amazed by what’s to come. We’re talking two stories. We’re talking about 50,000 square feet,” Marks said.

The library book drop, Barney, is on the west side of town at Kellus Turner Park and the Kellus Turner Community Center. (Courtesy Photo)

The library now has a partnership with the Odessa College library.

Marks said the library loans out Chromebooks, Samsung Tablets and T-Mobile hot spots.

“We have given Odessa College Learning Resource Center … 20 Chromebooks and 20 hotspots and they have a long-term agreement with their students for checkouts and we just turned it over to them. They have it indefinitely. We see that as … paying it forward to the community with their students. It puts it in their hands,” Marks said.

There also is a kiosk at Music City Mall and a book drop, dubbed Barney, at the Kellus Turner Community Park and the Kellus Turner Community Center, Marks said.

“The mall has been really easy to work with and Greg Morgan (the mall’s general manager), he’s been great,” Marks said.

He added that he plans to re-start the bookmobile program.