What’s the best plan for League City’s library?

April 10, 2019

League City officials are taking have begun taking a close look at what should come next for the community’s public library.

The city is taking first steps to decide a plan for the 29,000-square-foot Helen Hall Library, 100 W Walker St., which with almost 24,000 patrons, is the largest and busiest member of the Galveston County Library System.

“We are currently going through a needs-assessment process that will determine whether we should replace the building, renovate the current building, add new branches, or some combination of any of those,” said Jenny Brewer, head librarian for the facility.

“We have no specifics at this time, we will know more at the completion of the assessment,” she said.

The assessment isn’t related to the city’s $145 million bond election scheduled for May 4 that includes two propositions to improve mobility and drainage. The ballot also includes a proposal to boost the city’s sales tax to the state-maximum 8.25 percent to limit and possibly eliminate the bonds’ potential impact on the property tax rate.

Mayor Pat Hallisey said the library had been on the list of projects initially proposed for the city bond package but was scrapped to address more immediate concerns, like drainage and infrastructure improvements.

“The library has continued to grow in usage, and we know it is probably the single, most popular public facility in the city, even counting the ballfields, which are pretty popular,” Pat Hallisey said.

“We’re growing so fast, and keep in mind, that library was built when this city only had 5,000 people,” he said.

Circulation of the library for 2018 totaled 648,545 items.

Once the needs assessment is completed, a recommendation will be made to City Council, and funding recommendations will be made by staff members, Brewer said.

Hallisey said the city would ask voters for feedback on the library and proceed from there.

“We don’t have to have a full-blown bond issue. We can put it to the voters at any time and see what they think about building for a specified amount, specified location,” he said.

The Helen Hall Library (originally named the League City Public Library, then renamed in 1981) was built in the 1972. In 1981, a $2.5 million bond issue approved by voters expanded the then-7,000-square-foot building with a second floor.

The project could be funded in several different ways: general or and capital improvement funds or certificates of obligation.

Mindful of changing trends for library usage, Hallisey said that any branch that were added might not need to be a large building — it might be more feasible to have a storefront with computers.

“Hallisey said that often major projects can be contingent on timing and that the city, he said, has been considering what to do with the library for three years. He said he hopes the assessment will be completed before year’s end.

“We’re waiting to see what the study has to say,” he said. “I am still as committed to the library as I ever was. We are all keenly aware that the library is out of room.”