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S Thursday, May 23, 2013



A special supplement to



terling Municipal Library

Sterling Library’s 50th

2 The Baytown Sun

Thursday, May 23, 2013

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Contributed photo

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Sterling Municipal Library, a sculpture of an open book has been commissioned and will stand proudly next to the entrance of the library, located at Mary Elizabeth Wilbanks Avenue. The sculpture, “Seeking the Journey,” is a work by Alabama sculptor DeeDee Morrison paid for by contributions from Friends of Sterling Municipal Library, ExxonMobil and other businesses. Installation of the sculpture will culminate the anniversary celebration in October.

Sterling Library celebrates 50th anniversary this year


Compiled by Pat Mann

t all started in 1919, when Lucy Fuller was appointed the first Harris County Librarian by the Harris County Commissioners’ Court. But the first actual library would not come to Baytown until 1925, when former Texas Governor Ross S. Sterling gave the city of Goose Creek (now Baytown) a little red-brick building – 25 feet by 33 feet – located at the southeast corner of Jones Street and Texas Avenue.

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When this magnificent library opened as a branch of the Harris County Library System, the population of Goose Creek was estimated to be approximately 4,000. The city assumed responsibility for utilities and other expenses of the facility, while the county paid for the staff and book acquisitions. Move forward 23 years, and the city of Goose Creek had consolidated with the city of Pelly, which had absorbed the unincorporated area of East Baytown, and the population of the combined area, now renamed Baytown, had grown to more than 15,000. The library remained unchanged, and now capably managed by Mrs. C. T. Shewell. It was another seven years, in 1955, before citizens began to feel the need for improved library service. Baytown’s population was now at 25,000 people, and the League of Women Voters, having completed a study of library needs, proposed to the city’s planning commission that $125,000 be included in a general municipal improvement bond program. In what would become a fortunate setback, the library bond issue was defeated. By this time, the Friends of the Library had been see history • Page 3

Sterling Library’s 50th

Thursday, May 23, 2013

SML Librarians

Baytown Sun file photo

Flora Wilhite, left, director of Sterling Municipal Library for more than 33 years, is pictured in this photo from 1989 with Martha Mayo, the director of public information for the library at that time.

Flora Wilhite directed library for three decades By Mark Fleming n this 50th year of the existence of Sterling Municipal Library, a major part of its life was lost when longtime librarian Flora Richardson Wilhite died April 28. Wilhite served as Baytown’s library director for more than 30 years before retiring in 1998. As the city’s second chief librarian, Wilhite served at a time of great cultural and technological change, and the growth of the community led to two building expansions and the addition of a bookmobile service during her tenure. Current Librarian Katherine Brown knew Wilhite when Brown worked with the state library system and the local libraries she consulted with included Baytown. “She was a delightful lady,” she said of Wilhite. “She was genteel.” Lisa Coker began working for the library when Wilhite was librarian. “We met in 1992 when I applied for the children’s librarian position,” she said. “Here was this tiny, intellectually intimidating woman who immediately put me at ease. Then, over the next six years she put me in a perpetual state of awe. She was an amazing diplomat but she wielded her power gently.” Coker said the two most popular adjectives to define Wilhite were “gracious” and “refined.” “She was a lovely, gentle lady who demanded excellence and a high level of service,” she said. Carol Bartz, vice president of Friends of the Library, also worked with Wilhite. “Our library, she felt, belonged to the citizens, and she wanted everyone to be able to take advantage of it.” “Programs were developed to draw in all ages,” Bartz said. One of the most visible examples of this was the bookmobile program, which Wilhite initiated in 1971 – using her own van to get the program started. “If you couldn’t come to the library,” Bartz said, “the library would come to you.” She introduced literacy and tutoring programs to the library, and supported the transition of the library into the computer age, while not being a master of technology herself. Coker quoted her as often saying, “No matter how much the mediums change, the printed word is the backbone of all information.” Wilhite knew early on that she would become a librarian. In a statement in her honor on the occasion of her retirement, U.S. Representative Ken Bentsen said, “At age 6, her favorite Christmas present was a date stamp and ink pad, and she had already begun to arrange her books alphabetically by author’s name.” While the journey from her native Port Arthur to Baytown looks like a short trip down Highway 73, Wilhite took a substantial detour. After receiving a degree in library science from North Texas State University, she worked as engineering librarian for Lamar University in Beaumont, then served as command librarian for the U.S. Army in Germany, serving in Manheim, Heidelberg and Berlin. She then returned to the United States to be a librarian in Orange, then Baytown. She was honored as ExxonMobil’s Refiner of the Year in 1997 for service to the community, and in 1988 was named Library Director of the Year by the Texas Municipal League Library Director’s Association. Bentsen’s statement also said the was the first woman elected to the board of directors of the Baytown Chamber of Commerce and was named Rotarian of the Year in 1994-95.

Other Library Directors

henry j. blasick

denise fischer

Continued from page 2

organized (in 1951), and with the League of Women Voters, and others, work began again in behalf of a new library. On Oct. 7, 1957, the Pilot Club of Baytown called a meeting of the service clubs of Baytown in the Trinity Episcopal Church Parish House, and led by Mrs. Abe “Dot” Rosenzweig, the Public Affairs Chairman of the Pilot Club, the group immediately congealed into a supportive organization to proceed with a second bond proposal. Further study of the needs had uncovered the basic inadequacy of the $125,000 bond issue. The group appealed to the City Council to call a second bond election, in the amount of $350,000. This amount, along with the $50,000 to be realized by the sale of the original Sterling Library Building on Texas Avenue to the then-Citizens National Bank, would pay for a new library. Local businessman Bill Strickler led an energetic campaign committee, which ultimately saw to it that the bond issue was overwhelmingly approved in September 1960. Al Clayton was the mayor at the time, and J. B. LeFevre was the city manager. The approximately 12,000 squarefoot Sterling Municipal Library, designed by Baytown architect Lowell Lammers, opened on Feb. 24, 1963. The first Library Board was chaired by Max Mosesman, and consisted of Bill Strickler, Edna Gray, Frank Goss and Mattie Howard. The city had hired Henry J. “Hank” Blasick to be the first librarian, and a staff of five initially supported him, including Sally Evans, R. A. Moore, Eva Rae Collier, Marion Shires and Henry Stegman. The Harris County Branch moved to Wooster, where it remained until 1975, when it closed, and the county funds were then used to help support the bookmobile program. After four or five years, Hank Blasick gave way briefly to Cecilia Popleski. Then, in 1965, Flora Richardson Wilhite picked up the reins of the library. Wilhite had been the city librarian in Orange for a number of years. In 1970, the library became a member of the Houston Area Library System. In later years this affiliation would lead to cooperative programming for library circulation. This would become a major step forward in the automating of many library functions. The library’s first bookmobile was purchased in 1971. This acquisition greatly expanded library service to remote areas of the city, especially providing books and periodicals for senior citizens in the community’s nursing homes. The bookmobile also made many street-corner stops in disadvantaged neighborhoods so that children who normally would never visit the library, would have access to books. An annual county stipend of $20,000 helped to support the bookmobile activities. The city of Baytown continued to grow, and with it, the needs of the library increased. By 1975, the population of Baytown stood at nearly 49,000, and the book collection had grown to 80,000 volumes, with circulation exceeding 325,000 items in 1974. Staff was even managing the ever-growing bookmobile program from a 480-square-foot portable building. City Council appointed a bond study committee, chaired by Ken McNulty and Troy Peterson, and a $13,000,000 miscellaneous civic improvement program was proposed, to consist of a number of individual projects including a 15,000 square-foot expansion of the library at a cost of almost $1.1 million. The League of Women Voters, with Sarah Epperly as chairman, assisted by Jean Rosenbaum, Dot Rosenzwieg and Nancy Mann, eagerly supported the bond proposal for the library, which was part of a larger issue that included several other municipal buildings. The election on May 27, 1975, resulted in the library portion passing by a 2 to 1 margin, while the electorate soundly defeated proposals for a museum and a golf course. The Baytown firm of Davis and Burge, Architects and Planners, was selected to design the expansion, which, with careful planning

Katherine brown



Flora Richardson Wilhite was the second City Librarian, from 1965 to 1998. The first was Henry J. “Hank” Blasick, hired in 1961. Denise Fischer succeeded Wilhite as director and served from 1999 through 2004. Current Director Katherine Skinner Brown was hired in January 2005.





The Baytown Sun

Contributed photo

The east side of Sterling Municipal Library, circa 1968.

and programming, grew to 18,000 square-feet. Ground was broken on April 29, 1976, at a rainy-day ceremony presided over by Mayor Tom Gentry and James Girardeau, chairman of the Library Board. The library expansion was dedicated on Oct. 10, 1977. In 1984, City Council renamed the street on which the library is located from Public Library Avenue to Mary Elizabeth Wilbanks Avenue in recognition of Ms. Wilbanks’ long support of the Library. On Feb. 23, 1988, the library celebrated its 25th birthday, hosted by the Friends of the Library, with Amy Currie as president. Honored guests included Mayor Emmett Hutto. The program included extensive reminiscing by many of those who had been involved with the library from its earliest days. In commemoration of the 25th anniversary, the Friends, through the generosity of their supporters, presented the library with a “desk-top publishing” system valued at more than $12,000, and the pink marble bench that greets visitors at the library’s front door. That same year, the Texas Municipal Library Directors’ Association named Flora Wilhite “Texas Library Director of the Year.” By the 1990s, solving literacy deficiencies in many of our residents became an important issue where the library could fill a void. One of the major Baytown industries, Exxon’s Baytown Olefins Plant, began to realize that many of its lower-level employees were deficient in reading ability. They enlisted many of their employees to assist in a massive tutoring effort with the assistance of the library. This project, under the leadership of Denise Fischer and Ora Mae Harding, grew to include many in the city, both as patrons and as tutors. The library received national recognition as a result of these efforts. With this program, and the continuing growth of the city, circulation grew to nearly a million items by 1992. But the library was already gearing up for this growth. In May 1991, the city passed a $53 million civic improvement bond program, which included $1.9 million for an expansion of the library. A committee, led by Jean Rosenbaum and Carol Bartz, worked to ensure passage of the library expansion element of the program. William T. Burge, Architect, was hired to design the expansion of approximately 18,000 square-feet, along with a doubling of the parking lot. The reading room, stack area, office space, technical services and circulation area were all expanded. The expanded library was completed in late 1995 after considerable shuffling of departments, which was necessary to realign spaces as various elements of the building changed functions. A massive new marble circulation desk was a gift of ExxonMobil and welcomes visitors to the library. In January 1996, the library celebrated the 19th anniversary of the literacy program with a number of activities recognizing citizens of the community and graduates of the program. The Baytown Rotary Club with its first “Outstanding Volunteer Service Award” honored Ora Mae Harding in March 1997.

Later in 1997, ExxonMobil recognized Wilhite with its annual “Refiner of the Year” award, recognizing another in a line of Baytown’s outstanding citizens. Wilhite retired as city librarian on Jan. 31, 1998, and was succeeded in February 1999 by Denise Fischer. The Library Meeting Room was named in honor of Wilhite in recognition of the many years of her service to the city. The bookmobile was replaced in late 1999 by a newer, more expansive model, and book capacity jumped from 900 to 3,000 volumes. In December1999, Jean Rosenbaum’s family gave the library the Bernadette Carman bronze statue, “Time Out,” in honor of her birthday and in recognition of her love of Sterling Library. In March 2000, Lisa Coker received the Texas Library Association’s “Siddi Jo Johnson Award,” recognizing her as Texas’ Children’s Librarian of the Year. Later that year Baytown Mayor Pete Alfaro was recognized as Administrator of the Year by the Texas Municipal Library Directors’ Association for his long-time support of the library. In March 2001, ExxonMobil was recognized by the Texas Library Association as Benefactor of the Year for its long and faithful support of the library and its many civic programs. Note that this support goes back to the 1920s when Ross S. Sterling, himself one of the founders of the Humble Oil and Refining Co., later absorbed into the ExxonMobil family, gave the original library building to the city of Goose Creek. Later that year, Texas Municipal Library Directors’ Association named Denise Fischer its Library Director of the Year and Carol Bartz its Outstanding Library Supporter. Wilhite, the retired city librarian, was honored in 2002 by her many friends and fellow librarians across Texas with a $50,000 scholarship in her name at the University of North Texas School of Library and Information Science. This was part of the 60th Anniversary Celebration of the school. Denise Fischer retired as city librarian on Jan. 31, 2004, and was succeeded by Katherine Brown on Jan. 31, 2005. Brown brought 34 years of experience to the office, including five years as the Director of the Harris County Library System. She came to Baytown from a position as librarian for the city of Ruston, La. She has been faced almost from her earliest days with stringent city budget problems. She has overseen extensive changes in the arrangement of library functions – always with an eye to making the Library more “user-friendly.” The growth of computer and network facilities has been amazing. In 2010, after years of service, the bookmobile was retired. The ever-increasing cost of fuel and maintenance forced this measure. The library continues to serve the increasing number of nursing homes, senior citizens and shut-ins with a smaller staff and the familiar van. Sterling Library continues to grow in volumes, in visits by patrons, in circulation, and in Internet contacts. The city is also growing in population and size. Brown has already been charged with planning for a future branch of the library, probably in the northeast part of the city near Interstate 10.


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4 The Baytown Sun

Sterling Library’s 50th

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Library, Service League project brought books to those in need The history of the Sterling Municipal Library Bookmobile, 1969-2008 by Karen Knight Bookmobile and library employee, 1975-2013


n June 4, 1969, the residents of Archia and Dezavala Courts were stirred at 9:30 a.m. by a most unusual sound. The sound was a honking horn and the banging of a spoon on a coffee can emanating from a borrowed blue and white Volkswagon van. Chased down by excited children, the van finally stopped by the curb at 1900 W. Texas Ave. Along with Sterling Library employee Mary Stephens, volunteer members of the Service League of Baytown, including Martha Mayo, worked on a new, exciting summer service project to bring the library to lower income areas. They began unloading a shelved cart and boxes of books donated by Sterling Library and Houston Public Library. Flora Wilhite, city librarian, had carefully selected the books. They were placed on the cart and the children couldn’t get to them fast enough. The kids were told they could have the books for one week, return them the following Wednesday and get some more. All they had to do was give the ladies their names and the books were theirs for a whole week. Thus began the Bookmobile service, a brainchild of Flora Wilhite and Mary Stephens, two innovative women who wanted to spread the joy of reading outside the library walls to everyone in Baytown and do it for free. The program, funded by the city of Baytown and Harris County, would continue for another 38 years. Many changes took place over the years, but the joy of finding a book on the shelf that excites the imagination never changes.

After a very successful summer pilot program, a $20,000 fund drive for a new bookmobile began on Aug. 1, 1969, headed by Wilhite. The Service League donated money raised by their Charity Ball, another by then Enjay Chemical Co. and other private donors. The first 14-foot-long, orange bookmobile was finally purchased in 1972. It had plenty of shelves, heat and air conditioning, a standard transmission and a huge speaker was later mounted on the front. The horn-honking and can-beating were abandoned for music (and speaking) to attract the neighborhood kids and parents. Some popular selections were “Midnight at the Oasis” and the theme music from “The Sting,” but the one that stuck and was used until 2008 was the “Baby Elephant Walk.” Children loved to dance to it. The program quickly grew in popularity and soon the bookmobile was going all over town, including Highlands, Chinquapin School, McNair and Linus. Regular visits were made to neighborhoods, apartment buildings, nursing homes and senior centers. Mary Stephens was in charge of the new department, and staff was hired to meet the growing demand for books. The staff had an “office” in one corner of a back room with a couple of tables. Being that most of them were high school or early college age and a bit “rowdy” by library standards, an unused portable city jail cell building was put in place behind the library to house the new department. It was affectionately named “The Cell,” complete with the name on the door made out of an old stop sign. (It was located approximately where the Children’s Librarian desk sits now, which used to be a street.) Males were hired as drivers. The girls never had that distinction. All drivers had to get a commercial driver’s license. Later it was discovered that girls could drive, too, and the male driver became a thing of the past. Close relationships were built between the patrons

and staff, who quickly became experts at filling the desires of their demanding reading public from the library’s collection. During the 1970s, rain or shine, books were hauled between the buildings and the bookmobile, loaded and unloaded, pushed up and down ramps on book trucks, delivered, checked out and checked in on a daily basis. Stops were made late into the evening, sometimes not returning until 9:30 p.m., long after the library had closed. I can remember working in that building until after 10 p.m., alone, with the door open and not the least bit concerned about it. We had not even heard of cell phones – in fact there was no phone at all in The Cell. Activities were alive on the bookmobile and at the senior stops throughout the years. There were story times, homework help and games – such as bingo, Twister, jacks and even some of our own reading-related creations. Film programs started out in the early ’70s with filmstrips that had to be read (who remembers those?) to filmstrips with sound, then on to 8 mm and 16 mm movies, VHS and finally DVDs. There were arts and crafts of all kinds, live music, dancing, cooking demos, magic shows, animals and veterinarians, and karate and gymnastics demonstrations. The “Readster” T-shirt was a popular item during the summers of 1975 and 1976. Children brought their own shirts to their stop and I silkscreened a custom design with the bookmobile, created by artist Don Smith. The shirt was returned at the next stop. I wonder how many of those are still out there? I still have mine. The Bookmobile was always an active participant in the July 4 and Christmas parades, winning many times for its creative decorations. It was a tradition the staff looked forward to and took pride in. There were even a couple of parades the children had a hand in creating the decorations by helping to paint banners that were winners. There

Contributed photo

Karen Knight, right, and Fernando Ocegueda, Bookmobile director at that time, stand in front of the 32-foot Thomas bus that replaces the old Gerstenslagen bus.

were always fresh bulletin boards and decorations inside almost every month. Besides getting some good books to read, it was a gathering place for fun. The first expansion of the library building came in 1977 and the Bookmobile staff was able to move back inside. The program was expanding and a new, larger 19-foot long Gerstenslagen bookmobile replaced the ailing first bookmobile in 1978. With a capacity for 900 books, this new one had AC, a generator for electric power, an automatic transmission and even a closet. The shelves were not slanted very much so it had a tendency to throw books onto the floor if a large bump or curb was hit. It got to be a running joke of who could dump the most books. We knew every bump on every street in town. A “Bookmobile Jr.” van was added in 1982 and was used for nursing home stops. Book trucks were loaded into the back and secured with straps. Services to the seniors not only included books and magazines, but also records, tapes, magnifying glasses, framed prints and posters. A very popular film program was added to the senior stops, using 16mm films from the library’s collection and also borrowed from Houston Public Library. As the library built its own collection of VHS videos, the staff obtained a projector in order to update the programming. More stops now included the Baytown Opportunity Center, Alternative Learning Program, Kilgore Center, the YMCA, Head Start programs and the Bay Area Women’s Center.

The library joined with Literacy Volunteers of America in 1985 and the Bookmobile staff also provided this new venture with services. Stops were added at schools and churches where the Families Learning Together groups met to provide reading material in English and Spanish. At one point, there were so many students with young children in the program, the staff took on babysitting duties two days a week, sometimes watching up to 15 toddlers and babies. During the 1990s, the Bookmobile rolled along and constantly made improvements to better serve the public. The old collection of books was slowly phased out and replaced with new, brighter books thanks to donations from the service groups. New stops were added and some were changed to new areas depending on the need. Summer reading was a very busy time, with activities every day. The Literacy and Families Reading Together programs were in full swing with the bookmobile being utilized a great deal. The seniors were taking full advantage of the services. They were treated to a large collection of regular and large print books, magazines, film programs, book reviews, craft activities and friendly visits. The schedule was on a two-week rotation for most stops. Life was good. Computers began to streamline the operation somewhat toward the end of the 90s, and the old bus was beginning to show her years. After a few of years of discussion and budget crunching, it was decided to replace the Gerstenslagen

with a new, state-of-the-art, 32-foot Thomas bus. With a year of planning every detail, some tense driving lessons and relief that a commercial license was not required, the new $130,000 bookmobile hit the streets on Jan. 17, 2000. It had the capacity for more than 3,000 books, a bright new interior, two desks for staff, an audio system, television and video system for programming and a wheelchair lift. A new van was also added in 2001 and the graphics matched the bookmobile. It could also be used to make neighborhood stops when the bus was out of service. But the biggest change to come was the addition of Internet capability. A large, 60-foot telescoping antenna was added on the back, and using a lineof-sight system, wireless connection was available at most locations. It was not a perfect system, but it greatly changed how circulation was managed for the Bookmobile. No more was everything written by hand. More books were brought in from the main library to fill the shelves. Fun activities continued as always. VHS, talking books and DVD’s were added, becoming very popular the families and seniors. Film programming was stopped, but replaced by enjoyable seasonal PowerPoint programs But alas, all good things must come to an end. With a more mobile and connected society, lower attendance, high costs of gas and maintenance, and budget cuts, the bookmobile bus slowly became too costly. Many things were tried to increase see bookmobile • Page 7

Friends of Sterling Municipal Library

Group has been supporting staff, programs since 1960s by Carol Bartz Past president, Friends of Sterling Municipal Library

When you think of friends, you envision those with whom you share similar interest, aims and enjoyment. You seek out each other and say, “Let’s go for it!” Friends of Sterling Municipal Library have been “going for it” since the early 1960s. With the new building, the library director and board members recognized early on the need for a “Friends” a group that would willingly support staff and programs. From the beginning, Friends reached out into a welcoming community to enrich the library, thereby helping serve a growing community. Raising funds through tax-deductible contributions, the Friends have provided a wide variety of “extras” to enhance

library service. Reminiscing through scrapbook clippings and photographs brought back many faces who made Friends so successful – Jean Rosenbaum, Fern Cooper, Carol Bartz and Pat Mann are just a few of the many who have served the Friends and the library so well for so long. And the scrapbooks contain so many pictures and articles of successful good times in summer reading programs, evenings with authors, bond issues passed, employees receiving Friends scholarships to learn better ways to serve the public. These clippings serve as a lasting reminder of the impact the group has had. Friends’ contributions have grown and changed over time to meet the changing needs of the lisee friends • Page 7

4411 I-10 East • Baytown, TX

w w w. B a y t o w n G M . c o m


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sterling Library’s 50th


The Baytown Sun


Compassion & Value Contributed photo

go hand in hand

Former participants in the Sterling Library Summer Reading program, left to right, are Erika Estrada, Beatriz Estrada and Elizabeth Ruiz.

Summer Reading Program has something to offer for all ages by Jamie EUSTACE


Sterling Municipal Library

he Sterling Municipal Library’s 2013 Summer Reading Program will get under way on June 10 with eight weeks of fun activities for readers of all ages. Thanks to the generous support of ExxonMobil and the Friends of the Library, Sterling Municipal Library Summer Reading Program has become an annual tradition for thousands of area families. Children are encouraged to sign up for the Summer Reading Club where they can earn rewards for the time they spend reading. This year’s theme is “Book A Grand Adventure.” In addition to all-time favorites like Mad Science, Express Children’s Theater and performer Julian Franklin, this year’s program line-up also includes a the first annual Stuffed Animal Slumber Party organized by the newest member of the Sterling Library family, children’s librarian Jane Napier. Jane was born and raised in Louisiana and has enjoyed working with children and their families for almost 30 years.

She started her career as an elementary school teacher but for the past twenty years, she has been a children’s librarian and library director in Mississippi and Vermont. She is excited to bring new traditions and creative experiences to the children and families of Baytown. Pre-teen readers will have their own summer reading opportunities this year. Readers from the ages of 8-12 are invited to “Read Across Texas.” Pre-teens can complete a variety of reading challenges such as visiting another library in Texas, reading books from the Bluebonnet list, or making a short video about something in Texas other kids would like to see, to earn stamps for their travel booklet and points to spend at the end-of-summer slumber party. That’s right, the pre-teens will have the rare chance to spend the entire night in the library surrounded by books. Teen readers will be celebrating summer reading around the theme of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling book “The Hunger Games.” Teens who sign up and read just one book will earn an invitation to the live-action Hunger Games party at the beginning of August.

Teen Librarian Lesley Kohles is thrilled to capitalize of the popularity of the “Hunger Games” trilogy to entice teens to keep reading during the summer months. The theme of the Adult Summer Reading Program is “Fifty Shades of Summer.” Adult readers will have 50 reading challenges to choose from. They will be encouraged to do things like taking a picture of their library card in a vacation destination, reading a favorite book from their childhood, downloading a book or magazine from the library’s website, or introducing a grandchild to a librarian. For each challenge they complete, they will earn an entry form for an end of summer prize drawing. Thanks to the generous support of ExxonMobil, this year’s prizes will include four Kindle Fires. “We encourage everyone in Baytown to make the library part of their summer plans,” library director Katherine Brown said. “Not only are there a number of blockbuster titles being released during the summer months, the staff has also planned many programs and fun activities for patrons. The library is just a wonderful place to relax and read.”


SML works with patrons to keep materials on shelves, feed hungry It’s at the bottom of the sewing basket, under the car seat, or underneath the toy box. Yes, books have a way of hiding and suddenly there is an overdue fee at the library. Want to get a handle on this cost? Just report the book as lost while you search for it. The fees stop accumulating immediately when the book is returned or is reported lost. By reporting it lost, you can gain time to search all the good hiding places without adding to the fees. The library’s primary goal is to get materials back on the shelf and back in use for other patrons. The sooner the materials are returned, the lower the amount of the fine.

When an amount greater than $10 is owed in fines and/or fees, that library patron is blocked from using the library. But this can be solved when the fines and fees are paid down to $9.99 or less. The library also holds Food for Fines months to help patrons deal with overdue fines. Each non-perishable food item that is brought to the library during Food for Fines can deduct up to $1 from any overdue fees owed. This applies only to overdue fees, not to the cost of lost materials or other library fees. Don’t let fines discourage you from returning the materials. Someone else is waiting to read your book!


Program allows families a way to remember loved ones By Jo Hinkle Memorial/Honorarium coordinator

Who would have thought a simple, parttime job in September 1980 would turn into a 33-year library career? Sterling Municipal Library has been a big part of my life with so many happy memories of both staff and patrons. I consider them my second family. Actually, my connection with the “new” library began in 1963 as I watched it being constructed from my apartment window on Price Street. I have seen many changes during my tenure at SML and have worked under three directors.

The most challenging and interesting time during my years at the library were during the two expansions and renovations. The most significant change was the addition of computers. Now it is hard to even imagine how we ever functioned without them! I have had the pleasure of working with the finest, most compassionate people in Baytown during my years at Sterling Municipal Library. It has been a privilege to coordinate the Memorial/Honorarium Program since 1985. People who know our library often refer to it as the “Jewel of Baytown.” I could not agree more!

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The Baytown Sun

Sterling Library’s 50th

Thursday, May 23, 2013 The current staff of Sterling Municipal Library, led by Director Katherine Skinner Brown, is ready to help Baytown residents with anything they might need. Baytown Sun photo/ Albert Villegas

What will become of libraries in the next 50 years? My first library job was in the cataloging department at Louisiana Tech University in 1963. My task was to file stacks of cards for a much-expanded Shakespeare collection into the college card catalog. In a card catalog, every title had at least three cards – Author card, Title card and Subject card – and sometimes, large numbers of subject cards. This was the case with Mr. Shakespeare. Don’t know if the cataloging department ever got my filing attempts corrected, or if students researching Shakespeare were able to ever locate any materials. But I do know that I learned the cataloging department was not where I wanted to spend my library career! As the daughter of a school librarian, I came to a library career reluctantly, not wanting to – horror of horrors to a teenager – become my mother. But after taking the required basic chemistry course for my first college major four times before

successfully passing it, and knowing there was still organic chemistry to come, I jumped ship to Library Science and my career in libraries began. In these 50 years I have enjoyed positions in public school, junior Katherine college, state and public brown libraries, and have seen a sea of change in library services. In the 1960s and 1970s, libraries were about protecting the collections, being sure that books were revered because they were the only recorded access to information available for broad public use. Libraries were for reference and some recreational reading. It was the great equalizer – a place of quiet, reflective learning. Hence the stereotypical librarian with bun, glasses, crepe-sole shoes and a constant finger to the lips

to “shhhhh” the public. In the mid-1970s, libraries began baby steps into automating their card catalogs and patron records. This automation saved libraries the tremendous staff hours necessary to maintain a card catalog and a catalog of patron records, and allowed these hours to be better used to provide direct service to the public. By the 1980s, databases of materials began to be developed. This placed reference materials such as encyclopedias in a format that could be easily updated, making it possible to have the latest information online within days rather than the minimum of six months needed to get printed information updated and republished. The librarian’s role developed a new aspect, that of a navigator of information, helping patrons to determine what online information was legitimate and factual and what was simply one person’s opinion and not based on sound research. A good example is the online encyclopedia

Congratulations Sterling Municipal Library!

“Wikipedia,” which anyone can post to and no one carefully vets the information for accuracy like is done in encyclopedias and reputable databases. By the mid 1990s, companies began to offer books online. The earliest of these were textbooks available to college students. And then Amazon changed the market forever with their Kindle and the multitude of popular titles available to Kindle owners. What an opportunity for libraries to provide a new and modern service to their patrons! By working with jobbers of e-book titles, public libraries are able to provide free access to many e-books. One issue that is being debated and worked on, however, is the reluctance of many publishers to make current best-selling titles available for purchase by public libraries, which makes these titles unavailable to library patrons. As a strong believer in equality for all, I certainly hope libraries and publishers can resolve this profit-based issue quickly!

During the 1980s and 1990s libraries also began to focus on their role as a gathering place for members of the community. More space was found for quiet reading areas and rooms where groups could study together. Emphasis was placed on providing community services such as literacy and adult programming. And librarians began to “let their-hair-down” literally and lost the bun, the crepe soles and the “shhhh” in favor of a patron-friendly and welcoming service model. Also during the 1990s libraries became the great equalizer for Internet access, a place where the computer have-nots could become literate in computer and Internet usage. Where less fortunate children could have the same access to database information and the ability to turn in computer-generated work as those students who were fortunate enough to have a computer at home. And where see brown • Page 7

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sterling Library’s 50th

Sterling Library: Commemorating 50 years friends Continued from page 4

brary, and to accommodate changes in technology. In the 1960s purchases covered paper cutters and tencil makers, and later films and projectors, copy machines, new memory typewriters, microfiche, furnishings, and today’s technology. These contributions have augmented the city budget, ensuring additional and higher quality services for our whole community. The concept of Friends of the Library is a simple

The Baytown Sun

area. Bricks and mortar make the building, but staff and Friends are the heart and soul of the library. Membership in the Friends of the Sterling Municipal Library is open to anyone for $10 for a family. Contribution are tax deductible, and if you are an employee or an annuitant or a spouse of an employee of ExxonMobil, Chevron, or Arco, your membership and any gift to the Friends will be matched by these corporations. For more information about becoming a Friend, e-mail or call 281-422-1121.

one a group of interested persons who: • Accept the challenge of enriching the total program; • Contribute to public awareness of library services, resources and needs; and • Encourage benefactors through memberships, gifts, memorials and endowments. Friends of Sterling Municipal Library encourage you to become a new member, to participate in the constant improvement of library services. Information brochures are always available in the check-out

Friends of Sterling Municipal Library

Contributed photo

Sterling Municipal Library, pictured as it looked in 1968, is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

bookmobile Continued from page 4

attendance for several years, but the numbers were not in the program’s favor. It made its last stop on Aug 17, 2008. It was a sad day for the staff and this “old-timer.”

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adults without a computer or Internet access, could apply for jobs, e-mail relatives far and wide, shop online, and yes, play Farmville. Computers with educational games were made available for toddlers and school children at the library so that everyone could have a chance at computer literacy, a basic life skill in today’s world. Remember the old 1980s line that the Internet would make libraries obsolete? I am still waiting for that to happen! While the Internet has certainly changed both library usage patterns and how library staff provide service, the Internet has not “doomed” libraries. People frequently need assistance in learning how to access the information they need and how to interpret the information once they have found it. Library staff address this need with hands-on assistance at library computers and by putting together tutorials both on the library’s website and the library blog site. Sterling Municipal Library usage has remained at a fairly steady daily average attendance of just more than 1,000 patrons a day. The hits on library databases and e-books has increased by 9 percent over the past two years while

The bookmobile was taken in by the Fire Department. On the bright side, the nursing home services still continue and the homebound service has expanded with two exceptional ladies, Susan Chandler and Tammy Tallant at the helm. By far the best treat of all

was for the staff – the appreciation, respect and lessons taught about life that we gained from the older generation and the laughter and joy of the kids. A quote I will always remember from a bookmobile employee in another state: “It was the hardest job I ever loved.”

circulation of books and other material has dropped by 8 percent over the same time period, which I interpret as a pretty equal difference in usage. I believe these shifts in usage are a natural change in our culture of reading. Children being born today may never hold a hard-copy textbook. When a parent can read a picture book to a child from an e-reader that displays the pictures in digitized brightness, will these children automatically pick up hardcopy books when given a choice? New e-formats will bring major changes in the materials that future generations utilize. While it may be stretching it a bit to compare this change to the changes in the 1400s from handwritten manuscripts to the bound copies the masses could access after Guttenberg and his printing press, I do believe libraries need to be prepared over the next 30-40 years for very different ways of accessing materials for the public, and in how the public uses those materials. Technology changes so rapidly that we can have no concept of what will be available in 2060. Libraries must move seamlessly into each new information access option in order to remain the great equalizers for information access and relevant to all their users. Will the hardback pub-

lishing business cease to exist? Will library patrons stop reading books they can hold in their hands, smell the newness of, and actually turn the pages of? Not this reader, and probably not the majority of readers for another generation or two. But the time is coming when the current books on library shelves will go the way of the card catalog. I believe libraries will continue to exist as they have since the time of Alexander the Great, and I believe that they will change as greatly in the future as they have from the time of Alexander’s papyrus scrolls to today’s color-filled picture books, and information-filled databases. When Sterling Municipal Library celebrates its 100th birthday, the services that are discussed will be very different than today, but wonderfully they will still be about the joy of reading and learning, no matter in what format that information is received. Libraries will change, but they will never be obsolete. They represent the knowledge and history of a community, a gathering place for those who wish to learn and enjoy reading. Sterling Municipal Library has done this since it opened its doors in 1963 and it will continue to do this through whatever library service becomes over the next generations.


Board Members


President: Karen Roberson Past President: Carol Bartz Vice President: C.A. Riser Secretary: Pat Mann Treasurer: Carolyn Buntin

Mary Ann Cavazos Vicki Fayle, Kellye James Joan Linares Sylvia Lohkamp Sandra Woods

Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District Baytown and Highlands

Goose Creek CISD congratulates the Sterling Municipal Library on 50 years of service to our community and schools.

8 The Baytown Sun

Sterling Library’s 50th

Thursday, May 23, 2013

ExxonMobil is a proud partner of Sterling Municipal Library

ExxonMobil volunteers recently visited with Sterling Municipal Library staff before participating in Preschool Storytime, one of the many outstanding children’s programs ExxonMobil is proud to support. In June, the library will commence its annual ExxonMobil Reading and Cultural Enrichment Program.

ExxonMobil thanks Sterling Municipal Library for its long longstanding commitment to excellence and service to the Baytown community. For more than 50 years, S Sterling Municipal Library has offered a world of kknowledge to the citizens of Baytown and sought to “awaken the intellect and ignite the imagination.” Exx ExxonMobil has been an avid supporter of this mission d a proud sponsor of the numerous community-oriented and initiatives that support it. We are pleased to celebrate our historic partnership and congratulate the library on a half century of success. The story continues at

Sterling Municipal Library 50th Anniversary