- Layout of original library
- New construction for original Westbank Library
The space donated to the community by the Texas Commerce Bank in 1984 was tiny. Displays spilled out into the hallway, and an empty room behind the library space was commandeered for a used book sale room. The library was not on the ground floor, which meant volunteers had to navigate two flights of stairs with armloads of books each day. Storytime was held on the front lawn. The library needed a bigger home.
And once it got a bigger home, it still needed a bigger home. And once it got that…
The original Westbank Library
Building a library with no money was the next challenge for our founders. Fortunately, Eanes ISD Board member Valerie Bristol saw the usefulness of a permanent library to support education in the community, and she was instrumental in securing a lease agreement for a triangle of school district land at 1309 Westlake High Drive for 99 years at $1 per year. Shortly after, the name of the road was changed (because of confusion with nearby Westlake Drive) to Westbank Drive.
Land in hand, Doris Walcutt and team went to work applying for grants, getting a contractor to work for cost and an architect to all but donate his services. Building materials and furnishings were again subsidized by Calcasieu Lumber Company. The new 4600 square foot limestone building with the green roof opened November 12, 1989.
The library had a large central checkout desk near the entrance, with a book sale room and a workroom. A peaked ceiling feature is still evident in the current, twice-renovated building. The children’s room at one end was dominated by a large puzzle table that was cut down from a fabric store pattern book table. The collection grew to 22,000 items, including VHS tapes. Young adult literature was in its infancy and comprised one shelf.
Over the next 10 years, 750,000 visitors would pass through the small library’s doors. The community needed a larger collection, more places to sit, a meeting room and more work space for staff.
- Puzzle table in the kids’ area
- Checkout desk in original library
The library adds 10,000 square feet
Board members knew from the moment we moved in to the 1989 building that it was too small. In 2000, with new funding available from sales tax revenues, the building committee, led by Allen Jacoby, tripled the size of the library by adding a new two-story section designed by Tim Aynesworth.
The original library became the adult wing with a quiet reading room and computer area.
- Central reference desk and new computer pods
A large castle-themed children’s area was added, as well as administrative offices, a large workroom and staff kitchen, meeting rooms, a balcony, a larger book sale room, and plenty of storage. Over time, the back yard was developed with an arbor and play area, and a community garden was eventually added in 2012.
More library of course meant more use. As the collection grew to about 65,000 items, including movies and audios, annual circulations grew past 500,000. The library adopted a 7-day schedule and staffing grew to 12 full-time equivalent employees. The number of programs grew and attendance surged past 10,000, regularly overflowing our meeting room and our parking lot. Between 2000 and 2009, 1.8 million people passed through the doors – more than twice the number that had visited the smaller library in the same amount of time. In 2009, visitation hit 300,000 from a population of 25,000.
- Ms. Kristi leads storytime in the storybook castle
- New book display area across from the checkout desk
Laura Bush Community Library reaches the west end of district
A statue of Laura Bush reading to a child welcomes visitors
Out of room once again, the Board created committees to find land and start fundraising for a branch. Texas Research International (TRI) founder J. Scott Thornton came to the rescue with the donation of a 10-acre spot high on a hill. Studio 8 Architects designed a building to take advantage of the amazing views. The $4.5M building was paid for with a mix of savings, fundraising, and a loan. Laura’s Library opened July 19, 2009.
Laura’s Library, named for Texas’ most famous librarian and longtime friend of our library, boasts an enclosed family center and a large meeting room. There is a Veterans Courtyard with flagpole in front, and down below the library a hiking trail snakes through a canyon full of madrone trees.
- Volunteers make an outline of the footprint of the new library
on the hill
- Jeff Musgrove (with Beth Fox) volunteered as project manager
for three building projects
Westbank gets a renovation
- The renovated library has many comfortable sitting areas
- Flo Macklin, Jeanne Ferrin, and Beth Fox receive naming honors
By 2015, Westbank had seen about 4 million visitors since its original opening. It had been 15 years since the addition, and use and time had taken a toll. Besides needing a general refresh and the reconfiguration of some spaces, safety concerns were raised by the fire inspector.
The ensuing renovation, paid for with $2.2M that had been saved for this purpose, resulted in the installation of a fire sprinkler system. New ceilings with a higher acoustical rating were installed as well as LED lighting. The children’s room was enclosed to create a discovery space and allow for the joyous noises of storytime to be contained within. An additional meeting room was created, staff spaces were reconfigured, and bathrooms and kitchen were all renovated. Flooring was replaced, walls were painted inside and out, and the landscaping was refreshed.
Rooms in the renovated library were dedicated to recently retired Director Beth Fox (Family Center), Jeanne Ferrin (Book Store), and Flo Macklin (Collaboration Room) for their extensive contributions to the library over three decades.
As a stand-alone government agency, a library district must pay for the maintenance of its facilities. With careful budgeting, we can save for future capital projects to eliminate the need for additional fundraising.
- Checkout desk and reference are combined for better service
- A welcome discovery space for kids