The Atascocita Library is getting a special present for its 25th birthday – a million dollar expansion, and Becky Berry and the Friends of Atascocita Library (FOAL) are thrilled.
The funds were included in the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) approved by Harris County Commissioners Court in their 2020-21 fiscal year budget Nov. 12.
Berry, a champion advocate for the library and president of FOAL, had asked Atascocita residents to contact Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, urging them to vote “yes” to fund the expansion.
“With no community center in Atascocita, our library serves multiple purposes – voting booths during elections, space for community meetings, and multiple library and community programs,” says Berry.
The 2018 elections were chaotic with more than 15,000 Atascocita residents voting in the one small library meeting room while all other programs were conducted in the main library, Barry told the court.
The expansion is a perfect 25th anniversary gift, Berry believes. The Atascocita branch already is planning a year-long celebration in 2021 along with Harris County Public Library which will be celebrating its centennial that same year.
The library has a packed weekly schedule – seven story times each week, computer and craft classes, introductory coding, STEM programs, books, audiobooks and a digital media catalog accessible anywhere with a Harris County Public Library card.
“We don’t just provide meeting and study space,” says Beth Krippel, Atascocita Library’s branch manager. “We’re an avenue of exploring new ideas and remembering things past through books, movies and programs. You can learn how to fix a leaking faucet or take the first steps of coding Python. Atascocita library is a way to discover and investigate possibilities.”
Friends of the Atascocita Library first took root in 1986 when a now deceased Atascocita resident and retired educator, Odell Dreyer, envisioned a library to serve the fast-growing Atascocita area. FOAL was founded and incorporated in 1991, fundraising began, and groundbreaking was held in 1994 with the library finally opening May 5, 1996.
The library is located on Pinehurst Trail Drive near FM 1960 in Atascocita and is one of 26 branches of the Harris County Public Library.
“We spent three years selling engraved bricks for the covered porch walkway, selling children’s handprints for the outside library walls, conducting fashion shows, luncheons, book sales, even golf tournaments,” recalled Berry, “and at groundbreaking, we were able to present a check for $20,000 to the county to purchase books.”
Since that time, FOAL galas have raised $23,000 to purchase computers, $5,000 to install a security camera system plus upkeep, and $23,000 to purchase the LED color sign which displays the library’s programs and activities.
“FOAL raises funds primarily through used book sales, corporate donations, matching funds and volunteer participation grants, membership dues and individual donations,” Berry said.
The group sponsors an annual back-to-school book sale in August and sells books donated by the public daily in the library.
“We continue to support programs and materials not provided by the county,” said Berry. “Our annual budget is $20-$25,000 with added funds raised for those special projects, and we provide volunteers for programs as needed.”
The $500,000 that FOAL has raised to support the library is invaluable, according to Krippel.
“The LED street sign has given us the means to communicate with our community,” she said. “We’ve been able to bring in programs from performers and educators, and we’ve been able to increase the variety of materials we can offer including magazines, audiobooks and special collections.”
Anyone can join FOAL. Tax deductible membership levels range from $5-$25 and additional donations are always welcome, Berry said. Membership includes a newsletter, postcard reminder of book sales and special events, and opportunities to volunteer for book sales and serve as officers and committee chairs.
Berry encourages Atascocita residents to write letters of thank you to Hidalgo and Garcia. Their addresses are on the FOAL website, foal.ws. The website also includes information and history of the library, meeting information and a membership form to become a Friend of Atascocita Library.
Learn more about the Atascocita Library at their website, HCL.net.