The idea of a library for New Waverly was born of the dream of Marie Underwood, longtime English teacher and high school principal of New Waverly. Current Library Board Vice President Sue Smith remembers Mrs. Underwood fondly, “She started her own library. She would loan her personal books out at school.” It was the efforts of Mrs. Underwood that brought the community together to open its first public library in a small room in city hall in December of 1987. It was filled with donated books and staffed by volunteers. The school district provided financial assistance, and the Houston Area Library System provided some equipment.
When Mrs. Underwood passed away, Mrs. Betty Smith stepped in and kept the library going at city hall. Sue says, “It grew from one little room to three rooms, and city hall was ready to kick us out. We were growing and taking over.” Hundreds of hours of volunteer labor and materials were donated by citizens throughout Walker County. Judge John Pasket led the fundraising efforts, and a Friends of the Library group was organized to carry through on fundraising projects. In June 2000, a groundbreaking ceremony took place at the new site on SH 75 S., and on March 10, 2008, the doors to the ‘new’ New Waverly Public Library opened to the public with a ribbon cutting ceremony where Mrs. Esther Underwood, sister-in-law to the late Mrs. Marie Underwood, cut the ribbon.
In August 2008, Mrs. Betty, who had served as librarian for 20 years, asked to step down. Mrs. Becky Powell, an active library volunteer, became the new library director and held this position for over seven years before stepping down. In 2016, longtime library volunteer Kameron Sutton became the new library director. Kameron says of the library, “I fell in love with it; this is my second home. I helped fill in for the previous director and learned a lot. So when the previous director retired, I was hired.”
The library is 90% staffed by volunteers, who keep the library open 35 hours a week. Currently, the library receives some financial assistance from the New Waverly ISD and City of New Waverly. Forty to fifty percent of the budget is raised by volunteers.
A great resource to the community, the library is a cozy and inviting place. The building features a community room with kitchen facilities available for reservation, as well as a conference room. There is a reading room stocked with comfortable chairs, games, and puzzles to encourage family time. The library has computers for patrons to use and free Wi-Fi throughout the building.
The spirit of serving and bettering the community further extends to the library website. Many great resources can be found at www.newwaverlypubliclibrary.org to help students with homework, with the college application process, and help obtaining federal aid for college. There is also an area dedicated to helping people seeking a job with helpful links and tips. The website has a wealth of information for just about everyone.
The library offers the typical selection of books you would expect, such as reference materials, periodicals, fiction, non-fiction, mystery, westerns, and historical fiction. The conference room is dedicated to genealogy and Texas History, with several historical items on display. Kameron is focused on growing the fairly new sections of inspirational books, science fiction, audio books, and the area devoted to Spanish publications. Also offered is a growing collection of large print books. Kameron says, “We are getting more and more donations of large print materials. There are large print editions of books that can be found in other sections. However, we also have some large print editions that cannot be found in other sections of the library.”
Library Board Vice President Sue Smith likes the new addition of a paperback books section. Kameron says, “Yes, we have a section of “On Your Honor Books.” It has a lot of romance and mystery. They are books that are not checked out, but just taken on your honor. For example, if someone is going out of town or going into the hospital, and they don’t know when they’ll be able to get the book back to the library, this section is for them. Most bring them back or bring their own books to add to the section.”
The New Waverly Library is especially dedicated to serving students. Children’s literature has its own area of the building, decorated especially for the young readers. The teens have an area all their own as well. Chanel Maybin is the children’s librarian and director of all the children’s activities. There are three after school programs—one for elementary age, an intermediate program for middle school kids, and a teen program. The free program is held once a week from 3:30 to 5:00 pm, and any student is invited to attend. Students of New Waverly ISD can ride a bus from school to the library. The program typically runs once a week, but is subject to change due to holidays, school testing days, or other major events at the library, so please contact the library for the most up to date Children’s Program Schedule.
The library has something for everyone in the community. Every Tuesday at 11:00 am, Senior Center of Walker County provides lunch and fellowship for senior citizens in the community room. Library Board President Judy Vaughn says, “Judge Stephen Cole, Walker County judge, has been awesome sending community service workers to help us with grounds work or cleaning of the building if needed. But, he also helps start new programs. He and a detective from Huntsville PD, Scott Bennett, put on a great program about Identity Theft. We had a great turnout for that. He has other seminars in the works, like Cyber Crimes.” All these programs are free to the public. “You can find out what is going on with the library through our website, our Facebook page, and we advertise through KSAM,” Kameron explains. “We also have book sales occasionally, where we sell our duplicate and out of date books. But there is always a book cart full of books for sale in the library.”
An especially fun event everyone looks forward to is the annual Christmas Program. The library is decorated, and the public is invited to come enjoy a selection of desserts while touring the building. It is an elegant event featuring Belle Chanson, the Huntsville women’s choir.
With its resources and programs, New Waverly Public Library is a jewel of the community, but it wouldn’t exist without the help of that same community. Sue Smith explains, “We have been blessed to have so many people who have helped us get to where we are now. We had many donations for this building and grants for furniture. So many people gave both their money and their time. When this building was finally finished in ten years, it was completely paid for.” Judy Vaughn says, “The high school Beta Club helps us out a lot, as does the 4-H club. We employ a lot of the community services to help out with things, because we need the help.”
Kameron’s pride shines through when she talks of the volunteers, “We couldn’t do this without the community. We couldn’t do our job and keep the doors open if it wasn’t for the volunteers that care so much and show up every day wanting the best for this library. We have about 15 dedicated volunteers.” Judy adds, “This place is awesome, and we get so much help. I don’t think there’s anyone that volunteers here that doesn’t have a smile on their face.”
Their biggest source of funds comes from the annual fundraiser. Scheduled this year for Saturday, October 8th, the event features a dinner and an auction. Judy says, “It is a lot of work to put together, but it’s a blast. You should come!” It’s a real community effort with chicken fried steak supplied by Waverly House Restaurant and the dessert provided by the 4-H students. The Beta Students also help out the night of the event.
Dinner will be served at 6:00 pm. The auction will begin at 7:00 pm and will feature a wide variety of items. Past items include deer feeders, fire pits, gift cards, deer stands, hay feeders, quilts, gift baskets, fall décor, children’s toys, and much more. Constable Gene Bartee volunteers as the auctioneer. There will be a raffle and a country store offering homemade jams, desserts, local honey, and craft and décor items. There is something for everyone.
Director Kameron and the rest of the library board invite you to bring your family to the fundraiser, the Christmas Program, or to just come browse the books and sit and read a while. As they say on their website, “Our goal is to open our doors in welcome to you and assist you in any way we possibly can.”
Monday – Friday 11am-6pm
9372 S.H. 75 S.
New Waverly, TX 77358
Contact: Kameron Sutton email@example.com