Becky Berry’s dream is about to come true – expanding and eventually reopening her beloved Atascocita branch of the Harris County Library.
“Our expansion is still moving forward,” she said. “It went out for bids in March. We’ll break ground in June with a late fall or early winter completion projected.”
The million-dollar expansion was included in the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) approved by Harris County Commissioners Court in their 2020-21 fiscal year budget and comes just in time for the Branch’s 25th anniversary.
“The Branch’s 25th anniversary bash will take place May 5 regardless of whether the Branch is open or not,” said Berry. “We’ll have a week-long giveaway May 2-8, with ‘90s themed craft kits and anniversary moments.”
Berry promises terrific giveaways including book bags filled with marvelous items.
“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, so this 25th birthday is very special,” said Berry.
The expansion does not include furnishings, so Berry’s group, Friends of Atascocita Library (FOAL), plans a special fundraising effort to purchase tables and chairs.
FOAL was founded and incorporated in 1991 to support the Atascocita branch through used book sales, corporate and individual donations, matching funds, volunteer participation grants, and membership dues. Becky Berry is president.
The library remains closed to the public and Berry admits she does not know when it will open explaining “…as a county library, it has to go through county approval.”
The branch staff and FOAL members, however, have kept busy.
“We have been able to continue library services to Atascocita with our curbside book and craft kits pickup. Residents can request book bundles and the staff will curate an assortment of relevant books,” Berry said.
“We’re so proud of our Young Adult Librarian, Darla Pruitt, who was awarded a $6,000 pandemic grant from Best Buy,” said Berry. “The grant was used for audio/visual equipment to produce very professional-type videos for our Atascocita Library Facebook page.”
Berry also praised the Atascocita branch’s podcasts which can be heard through an app on any cellphone.
“We are one of only two branches producing a regularly scheduled podcast that is available on Apple, Podbean, Spotify and Stitcher,” she said.
In 2019, Darla Pruitt also won a Best Buy grant of nearly $10,000 for a teen/audio/visual club which is being organized virtually.
“We appreciate Best Buy of Atascocita so much,” said Berry. They are great supporters financially, they volunteer their time during FOAL book sales, and they volunteer to teach tech courses to our patrons.”
“With the branch closed, we lost our main sources of funding which were sales of used books and grants we received from the companies’ employees and retirees who volunteer with us,” said Berry. “Membership renewals and donations have us to continue providing funding for craft kits and some virtual programs.”
Berry and her group are collaborating with a consignment online bookseller, Bippity Boppity Books, that has provided some additional income. They receive income, too, from the Kroger and Amazon Smile loyalty programs.
Keep an eye on the Atascocita Library website to find out more about their 25th anniversary, Atascocita Branch Library | Harris County Public Library (hcpl.net).
Anyone can join FOAL. Tax deductible membership levels range from $5 to $25 and additional donations are always welcome, Berry says. 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. FOAL has monthly virtual meetings. Consider becoming a Friend of Atascocita Library, foal.ws.