The Little Library That Could: Spring Branch Memorial Library’s Annual Plant & Book Festival

Dylan and Delaney Brown with  Trent, FaithAnn and Hunter Monteverde. Photo by Michael Martinez Photography.

Dylan and Delaney Brown with
Trent, FaithAnn and Hunter Monteverde.
Photo by Michael Martinez Photography.

Cover Story | By Shirley Barr –

Barbara Rathgeber, a longtime Hedwig Village resident and archivist for the venerable organization Friends of the Spring Branch Memorial Library (SBML), remembers when some of the older library books were stored in the bathtub. This was in the original little white cottage that housed the library until 1975. Just like the little red engine that could, from the beloved children’s story, the library at 930 Corbindale Road just needed a little push. And today, it still gets it from the Friends.

“The Friends board and the many Friends volunteers drive the fundraising efforts to add much needed dollars to support the programs of our local Harris County Public Library,” said Fran Serena, president of the Friends of the SBML and chair of the book sale at the upcoming Festival Friday, March 24th and Saturday, March 25th. “Regular library goers in all of the Villages and beyond climb on board for the festival to lend their support.”

Major purchases by the Friends through the years started with carpet and paint in 1994 and have continued with e-books through 2016. A milestone gift and event was when Friends’ board member and landscaper Bob Green designed the Edith Spang Reading Garden, a quiet oasis behind the library. Spang was the first librarian of SBML and remained on the board for many years, adding colorful history at each board meeting. Those who have been helped to locate books or get settled in one of the many classes by an intern can thank the Friends. Monies raised also have paid for interns and contract labor.

Renae and Regan Oswald with their Plant & Book Festival finds.

Renae and Regan Oswald with their Plant & Book Festival finds.

A Community Center

There are many reasons to come to the library, including the handy copier machine and meeting rooms, but the programs and digital materials are the big draw. Classes and monthly meetings include cooking, crafting, computer robotics, environment and science, writing and book clubs, exercise, healthy eating and gardening.

SBML keeps building its reference materials that in-clude business, engine repair, languages and medical. A digital collection of movies, DVDs, e-books, audio books and magazines are all free to download. Summer programs attracted about 1,700 students in June and around 2,500 total for the months of July and August 2016.

For the Love of Books

But many regular library goers still just love books, like Bunker Hill resident Judy Glasford: “I belong to a book club, so always I shop at the SBML first for the books on our reading list and appreciate how the librarians are happy to order the book from another library if they don’t have it. My favorite authors are Wallace Stegner, Alexander McCall Smith, Bill Bryson, Lily King and the mystery series by Louise Penny. If you read the book 84 Charing Cross Road, you know why I buy used books, and I can usually find the ones I want at the Spring Branch Memorial Library.”

Gently used children’s books, adult fiction and nonfiction – from cooking and history to the classics and religion – will all be available at bargain prices at this month’s festival. According to Claudia Wilkinson, vice president of the Friends of SBML, the festival is a great way to acquire gifts for future occasions, add to your library or start a personal library for children or grandchildren. “The silent auction of rare books and books signed by the author is a traditional highlight at the festival,” said Wilkinson, who works in the book sale room each year and also keeps the lobby books in order year round.

Carrie and Delaney Johnson enjoying the Plant Sale.

Carrie and Delaney Johnson enjoying the Plant Sale.

Inside the Festival

In preparation for the festival, Plant Sale Chair Katie Wright has been meeting with community greenhouses and retailers requesting donations of flats of new seasonal bedding plants, including tomatoes and other vegetables, flowering trees, as well as hanging baskets and indoor and outdoor plants. Expect wonderful bougainvillea, bromeliad and croton. Past festivals showcased hibiscus shrubs and tree-formed Texas native ligustrum. Festival goers are encouraged to come early for the best choices, and they may be surprised what they can acquire for their garden.

“Beginning Friday, March 24th, the plants for sale will be displayed prominently on the front steps of the library. We call it our public view of the Plant & Book Festival,” said Wright.  Wright’s chair-mentor is Mary Waggoner, a long-time plant chair who is now on the Friends board to assist with volunteers and membership. Waggoner and her husband, Jim, are Hedwig residents and can’t remember when they weren’t active with the Friends. Jim started the Buy-A-Book program when he was treasurer in 1994 as a way to honor loved ones and raise funds for the library.

As visitors enter the library lobby during the Plant & Book Festival, they will see a prominent display of coupons and gift certificates that have been donated for the festival. These can be purchased inexpensively as another way to contribute to revenues of the Festival, according to Christine De Angelis, coupon chair.

“And don’t forget the appearance of the lively H-E-B Buddy grocery sack mascot and the complimentary Sweet Tomatoes refreshment booth,” said Waggoner. “We try to supply an extra reason for young parents and grandparents to bring their children to the annual Friends Festival!”

Festival hours are Friday, March 24th from 10 am to 5 pm and Saturday, March 25th from 10 am to 4 pm at the Spring Branch Memorial Library, located at 930 Corbindale Road. Email fjserena@hotmail.com or call 832-860-0174 for more information.