The city’s first library began in April 1892 as an idea by 20 women, meeting at the home of Jenny Scheuber, to form the Fort Worth Public Library Association. Within one month, this association had received its state charter, but it took the association’s contacting wealthy philanthropist Andrew Carnegie for it to bring the Fort Worth Public Library and Art Museum into existence. Carnegie, who was donating building funds for libraries throughout the English-speaking world, suggested the women ask the local gentlemen for “the price of a good cigar” to help raise the necessary local supporting funds. When the City Council approved spending $4,000 per year to run the library, Carnegie contributed $50,000 for the building.
Fort Worth’s first library opened in 1901. One hundred-plus years later, the Fort Worth Library has grown from a library with 1 building, 5 staff, a budget of around $4,000 and just under 7,000 books, to a system with 16 locations, over 220 staff, a $16.3 million dollar annual budget, and over 2 million books, DVDs, CDs, online databases, magazines, government documents, and microfiche. The Fort Worth Public Library Foundation celebrates Mr. Carnegie’s generosity each year with its annual Cigar Smoker. We celebrate his legacy every day as we continue to find new ways to provide exciting programs, collections, and other library services to the residents of Fort Worth.
Here are some highlights of the Library’s 100+ years.
- The Carnegie Public Library of Fort Worth opened on October 17, 1901, at Ninth and Throckmorton streets, with Jenny Scheuber as librarian and a collection of 6,907 volumes.
- This building included an art gallery, establishing the close relationship between the Library and the arts in Fort Worth that continues to this day.
- The original granite cornerstone now marks the spot of the Carnegie Public Library, which was replaced in 1939 by a new building.
- Two depository Library stations were established in local businesses in outlying areas. Books were delivered one afternoon per week.
- The first branch library opened on the Northside on the second floor of a refurbished police station with a collection of 4,000 volumes. You may recognize the building, that’s now a popular Mexican restaurant on Main Street near the Stockyards.
- Library service to the county was begun via the Tarrant County Free Library.
- The need for additional space had become critical. When a bond issue for a larger library failed, the library rented an annex at 209 ½ 8th Street to house part of the collection.
- A total of twenty-four depository stations had been established.
- A new central library to replace the original Carnegie building was dedicated with Harry N. Peterson of Yonkers, New York as the system’s first professional library director.
The new director, Joseph S. Ibbotson, was instrumental in organizing the Friends of the Library and initiating bookmobile service, which made 28 stops within the Fort Worth city limits.
Arless Nixon became director, and branch libraries became a topic of discussion.
- The first free-standing branch, Southwest, opened in the Wedgwood area.
- Wyman Jones became the fifth director.
- The East Branch opened in Meadowbrook.
- Five additional branches opened–North (now called Northside), Northeast (Riverside), South (Seminary South), Southeast (East Berry), and West (Ridglea).
- Mabel Fischer became the first female director since Mrs. Scheuber.
A new Central Library opened. Despite receiving voter approval in 1972, it was delayed by litigation until 1975. The loss of funds due to double digit inflation resulted in an underground building as the only alternative.
Linda Allmand was hired as Director to lead the Fort Worth Public Library into the future.
- The Ella Mae Shamblee Branch opened in the Southside Multipurpose Center.
- Cate Dixon, Assistant Director, was hired to begin the library automation project.
- Tarrant County funding ended for the Fort Worth Public Library, and non-resident fees were established.
- Library automation project completed, featuring computerized catalog.
- The Southwest Regional Library opened.
- The Diamond Hill/Jarvis Branch opened.
- Central Library expansion project began.
- The Fort Worth Public Library Foundation was founded and began a capital improvements campaign to finish, furnish and equip the expanded Central Library.
- The Library entered cyberspace with the advent of Internet access on the public online catalog.
- COOL (Cavile Outreach Opportunity Library) opened as the first satellite in a public housing community.
- Sunday hours were restored to the Central Library. Exterior expansion of the Central Library was completed.
- (Cavile Outreach Opportunity Library) became a permanent unit of the Library.
- Southwest Regional Library began Sunday hours.
- The Library’s World Wide Web homepage was launched in July.
- East Regional Library opened on October 5. Voters approved the bond issue in 1986, but construction was delayed until 1995.
- BOLD (Butler Outreach Library Division) opened on January 25 as FWPL’s second satellite library located in a public housing community.
- Cate Dixon became Interim Library Director in February while a national search was mounted for a new director.
- The interior portion of the Central Library expansion began in May.
- BOLD (Butler Outreach Library Division) became a permanent unit of the Library in October 1998.
- The architect was hired for the Summerglen branch.
- Dr. Gleniece Robinson became Fort Worth Public Library’s eighth director and first African-American director.
- The finished expansion of the Central Library opened on October 22. The grand opening was followed by a weekend of festivities and entertainment sponsored by The Fort Worth Public Library Foundation.
- Groundbreaking for the Summerglen Branch was held in December.
- Tornado on March 28 did over $1 million damage to the new Central Library.
- Summerglen Branch opened on November 11.
- The Fort Worth Public Library was recognized as one of the best public libraries of its size by the Hennen American Public Libraries study.
- The library celebrated its 100th birthday on October 17.
- “Our Place”, the Central Library’s Teen Center, opened in October.
- Services to neighborhoods established via a Community Outreach Services Unit.
- The Library’s Long Range Services Plan contract awarded to Dubberly Associates, Inc. in December.
- Library initiates remote access to over 50 online databases.
- Regional libraries begin 7 day a week schedule on May 3.
- The Texas Library Association names the Library’s 100th Anniversary campaign, “The Original Search Engine” as Project of the Year. “The Original Search Engine” was a year-long publicity campaign designed to promote library services, improve resources, and celebrate Library’s 100th birthday. Campaign events included library card drives, the opening of the Summerglen branch, fund-raising activities, and cultural events culminated by the first-ever Libraryfest, a day-long celebration of books, reading, and fun for the whole family.
- The Library’s Long Range Service Plan was drafted.
- Implemented automated TeleMessaging service to notify patrons of overdue materials and holds that are ready for pickup/checkout.
- Library received a $233,610 grant for promoting literacy and a love of literature through storytelling - Museums Utilizing Storytelling for Education (MUSE)
- The Fort Worth Public Library Foundation provided $600,000 toward the cost of a new integrated library system for the Library.
- The Northside Branch parking lot project was completed in March.
- East Berry Branch renovation and remodeling was completed in May.
- Over 530 public and staff computers, most of which were over 6 years old, were replaced with new, leased systems.
- The new integrated library system, HORIZON, was launched July 7.
- The Northside renovation and remodeling was completed in December.
- The Fort Worth Public Library Foundation provided $250,000 matching funds for new library materials as part of its Great Cities Have Great Libraries campaign
- Seminary Branch renovation and remodeling was completed in May
- EnvisionWare PC reservation and print management system was installed in all libraries.
- A designated video gaming room for teens opens at Central Library in October, offering Xbox 360 games.
- Riverside Branch gets a makeover, including an expanded children’s area, provided by the Idearc Media-American Library Association Reading Renovation Volunteer Project.
- Wi-Fi internet service becomes available to patrons at Central Library.
- The Ella Mae Gratts Shamblee Branch Library opens in June as part of the Evans and Rosedale Business and Cultural District revitalization.
- In conjunction with the Shamblee Branch opening, the Library unveiled its new logo and announced a rebranding as the Fort Worth Library, not the Fort Worth Public Library. This was made possible by The Fort Worth Public Library Foundation through a generous grant from the Gregory A. & Laura E. Bird Foundation.
- In April, groundbreaking for the new Northwest Branch Library begins.
- The Fort Worth Public Library Foundation receives a generous bequest from the estate of Hazel Harvey Peace to support the Hazel Harvey Peace Youth Center at the Central Library.
- Renovations to the Central Library’s Gallery (the “Living Room of the City”) are completed. The Fort Worth Public Library Foundation contributed $625,000 for improvements and furnishings.
- The library launches the 3rd Thursday Jazz Series.
- In October, the prairie-style Northwest Branch Library opens at the corner of Crystal Lake and Cromwell-Marine Creek Rd.
- The library begins work on a new master plan called the 20/20 Vision.
- The Meadowbrook Branch Library reopens as the eSkills Library and Job Center, offering classes and resources to those searching for employment.
- COOL (Cavile Outreach Opportunity Library) closes for renovations
- The library’s new master plan, 20/20 Vision, is approved by the City Council.
- COOL (Cavile Outreach Opportunity Library) reopens
- Ridglea Branch Library renovation begins.
- Worth Reading, the library’s signature literacy and education initiative, was launched in the spring of 2013. WR expands and enhances the library’s traditional summer reading program by combining quality programs, activities and workshops with incentives for people to read, listen and learn.
- As part of the library’s 10-year system master plan, 20/20 Vision, the Ridglea Branch Library was renovated. It was the first time major improvements had been made to the facility since it opened in 1967.
- FWL Mobile, the library’s first app, was made available to the public. The state-of-the-art technology makes it easy to search the catalog, manage accounts and download eBooks from a smartphone, tablet or PC.
- Teen Center at the Central Library moves upstairs into a larger space that is dedicated to teens.
- The Movie Shop at the Central Library opens. The shop is stocked with hundreds of new and popular movies available only in the Movie Shop and cannot be placed on hold, reserved for customers or transferred to other libraries. Since the titles aren’t in the online catalog,customers can visit the store to see what’s on the shelves and find out if it’s their lucky day!
- The Discovery Theatre at the Central Library is renovated and the Fast Track to Reading area is created. Both projects were supported by the Sid W. Richardson Foundation and Speedway Children’s Charities.
- The new integrated library system, Polaris, was launched.
- The Diamond Hill/Jarvis Library gets updates to the interior.
Last updated: March 9, 2016