By Mark Smith
Today I attended the dedication of the newly expanded San Marcos Public Library. Aside from the fact that this was the first library event I have attended since February 2020, it was very exciting for other reasons. Not only was I able to see the beautiful library designed by PGAL Architects, I was able to meet Mayor Jane Hughson, hear comments from Congressman Lloyd Doggett, and also enjoy a poem by poet and staff member E.D. Watson.
In my comments at the dedication ceremony, which I will include below, I shared my thoughts about why library openings are such an encouraging reaffirmation of the power of libraries to transform individuals and communities. I also thanked Congressman Doggett for his co-sponsorship of the Build America’s Libraries Act, pending federal legislation that would appropriate $5 billion for library construction and modernization projects across the U.S. Texas’s share of these funds would be over $373 million. And while our needs for library facilities run easily into the billions, this amount of funding would certainly allow more communities to experience the huge economic and educational benefits that accrue from new library facilities.
Here are my comments from today’s event:
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is such an honor and privilege to be with you on this important day. Thank you to Director Diane Insley for inviting me here today. And a huge thank you to Congressman Lloyd Doggett. We thank Congressman Doggett for his service representing us in the U.S. Congress in these very trying times and for the tireless support that he and his wife Libby have given education and libraries over the years, including his current co-sponsorship of the Build America’s Libraries Act, which would ensure that hundreds of other communities across Texas and the U.S. could enjoy the huge benefits of new library facilities.
This is truly a joyous day. In fact, I tell you in all sincerity that dedication ceremonies for new library facilities are my favorite of all public occasions. I say that because every new library is an affirmation of our collective belief in the power of libraries to change lives.
A new library affirms our belief that children who have access to books and reading at an early age are more successful in school and later life.
A new library affirms our vision that public spaces like this one will bring the community together in civic engagement and break down divisive barriers between people.
And a new library represents our shared aspiration for the growth of our communities, support for entrepreneurship and economic success, and for the potential for personal growth and enrichment through equal access to information and opportunity.
I applaud the people of San Marcos for your vision in making the dream of this beautiful library a reality. I understand that this project was paid for with a 2017 bond that passed by 77 percent of the voters. I invite you all to stop for a moment and contemplate the significance of that. In this day and age, when we are so divided on so many issues, when we can’t even often agree about what our problems are so that we can start to fix them, the prospect of a new library was approved by over three quarters of the voters in this city! How encouraging is that!
And those funds were supplemented by a generous donation from Friends of the Library and a grant from the Burdine Johnson Foundation.
Thank you to the City of San Marcos for your support and leadership for making this project a reality. I know that the City Council has been very supportive of the library and has extended free service to all students in the San Marcos School District regardless of where they live. And thanks also to Hays County for arranging with the City to have free access extended to all residents of the County. These types of partnerships are so important in leveraging your investment to increase opportunity and quality of life for the entire area.
The improvements in this library sound amazing and I can’t wait to see them. The new children’s room, story hour space in an enclosed courtyard, and teen room to encourage youth literacy and engagement; a new makerspace to help build STEM skills; and an expanded local history area, including a generous donation of 3,500 items from Texas author Mike Cox.
I understand from Diane that there are also improvements in the HVAC and other infrastructure to keep people comfortable, socially distanced, and fully enjoying this beautiful library.
While most of us already knew that libraries were important, the pandemic really brought home to a lot of people how essential libraries really are. During the pandemic, libraries, including this one helped Texans across the state get to information resources they needed while they were working at home and attending school remotely. Wireless around libraries helped people get online even when the library was closed. And libraries were among the first services to reopen and offer curbside pick-up, grab and go, and even limited on-site use.
Post pandemic, libraries will be a key to helping their communities find the resilience they need to recover and get back on track. So, it is fitting that we come together here today to celebrate and dedicate this re-imagined San Marcos Public Library. I urge you all to be very frequent visitors here, bring your families, your children, your friends, and yourselves to visit the library often and discover all the ways it can enhance your lives and the life of your community.
Best wishes to all and congratulations on this beautiful library facility.
To learn more about the Build America’s Libraries Act, visit: https://www.ala.org/advocacy/buildlibraries#:~:text=Don%20Young%20(R%2DAK),environmental%20hazards%2C%20and%20accessibility%20barriers.