The need for a larger library facility had long been recognized and encouraged by individuals and public organizations. The 1970 population of Huntsville was reported as 14,150. By 2009 the estimated population of Huntsville approached 40,000 inhabitants. Walker County likewise had a substantial growth in population. The 1970 population of Walker County was approximately 27,000. A 2009 population projection estimated that the population of the county had increased to more than 64,000. Walker County and Huntsville continue to experience population increases. The latest (2015) population projections estimate the Huntsville population at 40,762 and Walker County at 70,699.
Population growth placed strains on the original library’s ability to meet customary services. In 2009, the feasibility committee, with the support of City Manager Bill Baine, recommended to City Council the development of a preliminary design for a larger facility. The Friends of the Huntsville Public Library, the Library Board, civic organizations and individuals actively supported the renovation and enlargement of the facility. Preliminary studies by the Central Texas Library System were considered. The architectural firm of Aguirre Roden, Inc. of Austin, Texas was selected to provide preliminary design drawings.
Sylvia Bell, Jane Monday, Robert Vann, Johnnie Jo Dickenson, Gene Myrick, Julie Woods, Linda Dodson, Sandra Ray, Mac Woodward, Kay Douglas, Dennis Reed, Darlene Zender, Sharon Duke, Janet Ridley, J. Turner, Nancy Franklin, Phillip Rosenberger, Ann Holder, Jack Ross, Morris Johnson, Rosa Valles, Beth Miles
Gene Myrick, President
Carol Williams, Assistant Treasurer
Marie Hayden, Vice President
Cynthia Nethery, Secretary
Kermit Cummings, Treasurer
Marion Barren, President
Terry Stivers, President-Elect
Helen King, Vice President
J. Turner, Mayor Darlene Zender, Position 1 At Large
Tom Cole, Ward 1 Melissa Templeton, Position 2 At Large
Mac Woodward, Ward 2 Charles Forbus, Position 3 At Large
Jack Wagamon, Ward 3 Lanny Ray, Position 4 At Large
Wayne Barret, Ward 4
Mac Woodward, Mayor
Joe Emmett, Ward 1 James Fitch, Position 1 At Large
Tish Humphrey, Ward 2 Lydia Montgomery, Position 2 At Large
Ronald Allen, Ward 3 Don H. Johnson, Position 3 At Large
Clyde Loll, Ward 4 Keith D. Olson, Position 4 At Large
A special election was called for November 3, 2009, which included a $3.5 million bond for extensive renovation to the 1967 library. The renovation project called for expansion from 7,000 to 22,000 square feet. The Huntsville Item announced in large font headlines that the “City Library Expansion OK’d”. The vote tally was 1,478 approving and 349 votes cast against the expansion.
The 1.77-acre site of the library provided for 81 parking spaces in addition to the 15,000 square foot addition which allowed for a 1,751 square foot community room with seating for 150, a 1,804 square foot children’s room and a 1,500 square foot genealogy room. The expansion provided for the installation of more than 40 public access computers as well as capacity to increase the collection for the foreseeable future. Administrative and staff areas and storage rooms were enlarged.
The expansion and renovation were enhanced by generous donations and support. Dr. Michelle Hebert provided furnishings for the Community Room. The Children’s Room received contribution from the family of Dr. Haley and Marjorie Rex and was named to honor them. The Gene Myrick Friends’ Café was dedicated by the Friends of the Huntsville Public Library in recognition of Gene Myrick’s service to the library over many years. The Virginia Gibbs Smythe Gathering Place, the Jane and Charles Monday Computer Room and Drive-Thru and the Mayor William V. and Una Grace Nash Board Room reflect the support and contribution of their namesakes. The Entergy TX Lifespan Literary Center and the Dr. Richard D. Johnson Adult Reading Area provide comfortable study and reading areas. The Johnnie Jo Sowell Dickenson Genealogy Room was dedicated to the contributions made by its namesake to the library’s genealogy collection and her years of service to the community.
Futurists speculate on what libraries of the future will look like and the services they will provide. The large edifices we now recognize as Public Libraries may be replaced by small virtual reality libraries conveniently placed throughout the communities of the future. Future patrons may access virtual stacks of digital magazines and books by speaking to a robotic librarian. Delivery of library print materials may be accomplished by carrier drones flying across neighborhoods and dropping them conveniently at the front door.
Virtual reality and artificial intelligence will almost certainly play roles in future libraries. Some futurists predict that library patrons will be able to check out virtual reality equipment and experience far-flung adventures similar to those portrayed by the Star Trek crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Star Trek fans will recall how Spock and the crew played out their fantasy adventures on the holodeck. The programs on the holodeck went beyond today’s interactive games engaging the players in conscious bending scenarios. The 1970s fantasy television may be tomorrow’s reality.
Technological advances have transformed today’s libraries. Technological advances will continue to transform libraries. Traditionalists hold that print materials will continue to be popular and in demand. Print materials are stable and, with proper care, can survive beyond the life expectancy of an ever-changing electronic media. Traditionalists also recognize the contributions that libraries make as places of community gathering and group activity.
Future histories of the Huntsville Public Library will, almost certainly, record innovations and changes that far exceed our imaginations.