February will be a month of celebration at the Houston Public Library, as the library celebrates its 20th birthday. The library began its life in a little house near city hall in February 2002. Four women, Lynn Carr, Barb Swenson, Kim Scheevel Ross, and Jean Collette were instrumental in collecting books and furniture for the fledgling library.
The library moved to a new location when Acentek donated the current building to the library in the fall of 2002.
In 2006, a handicap accessible bathroom and front door were added. This was done in order to be eligible to join SELCO (Southeast Libraries Cooperating) as well as to welcome people with disabilities.
In 2011, the library was remodeled extensively; bookshelves purchased from the Caledonia library as they remodeled were repainted by Connie’s Auto Body as a donation.
Currently, the library is run by librarian Liz Gibson-Gasset and her assistant Beth Peterson-Lee. The duo and the library board have planned a month-long celebration for the library.
Beginning February 1, 2022, the library will be going fine-free. Kids’ materials have been fine-free countywide since 2019; now only lost or damaged books and items from other SELCO libraries which still charge fines are the only items that will carry a fine.
Storytime at home kits will be provided by the library each Saturday of the month. “B is for Books and Birthdays” will be the kit on February 5; “L is for Library and Love” will follow on February 12. “R is for reading” will be available February 19; while “S is for Stories” comes out February 26. The kits will include crafts and STEM items and sometimes a book.
Ukulele classes taught by Liz Gibson-Gasset will begin February 3. The classes intended for teens and adults will run for nine weeks. Ukuleles will be available from the library.
Author and historian Doug Ohman will give a presentation Monday, February 7, from 7-8 p.m. Ohman is the author of a book titled Libraries of Minnesota, which was published by MNHS Press and features a photo of the Houston Library on the cover.
Two breaker space events will be held February 17 from 5-7 p.m. and February 19, from 10-noon. Attendees will have the chance to take apart machines and small appliances to explore how they work. Children of any age are welcome to attend; parents are asked to accompany the younger children. Masks will be required.
A quilt raffle will be held on February 14 with proceeds going to support the summer reading program. Janet Kelleher has one again created and donated the beautiful quilt for the raffle. Tickets for the raffle are $2.00 each.
Ten themed baskets will be given away this year. Patrons of the library will have a chance to put their name in a container near their desired baskets every time they visit and use any library service all month long.
Before COVID, the library was toying with the idea of a conference room or great room for presentations. One idea was to shelf the bulk of their collection on mobile bookcases so they could reconfigure the space as needed. The Houston Library is due for a strategic planning session to plan for the next 10 years. Decisions are made by the entire board.
COVID was tough on the library; classes, events, and programs for early childhood literacy came to a “screeching halt” to quote Liz.
Liz is hoping to rebuild the relationship between the school and library; she wants to remind parents the library is available to help them and their children in research and reading materials.
Circulation the first year the library was open was 7,000 items. While 34,000 was the highest circulation, the average is around 30,000 per year. Since COVID, the children’s circulation has been down 60%; adult circulation has returned to near average once again.
Liz loves her job; she loves recommending and sharing books, music and films. She says her job is a fun, creative job. “I get to be creative and think about what we are going to do next! It’s a pleasure to watch the kids grow!”
As part of her job, she tries to find grants to support the library; SELCO and the Legacy program are main resources for her. She’s grateful for SELCO providing all the rich resources to small libraries. The county libraries have put up little libraries around the county and created a historical treasure hunt.
Liz asks, “What do people want from us?” She sees the goal of the library as serving the community. The library helps collect for the local food shelf and school coat drives. Digital books have grown in popularity recently; Liz wonders what new resources people will be looking for the library to provide.
Be sure to stop in and help Houston Library celebrate their 20th birthday this month!