History of Donna Public Library
Woman’s groups have played a vital part in the creation and development of the Donna Public Library. The Women’s Club Association, Garden Club and the Women’s Home Club were all important contributors to the library. These organizations committed more than just money. They committed hard work and dedication. These visionary ladies saw the great demand and need for services a library would provide.
In 1911, several young women approximately eighteen and nineteen years of age, began forming a club which was later known as the Donna Women’s Club. As the club progressed they became aware of the needs of the community and began taking an active part as a service oriented organization.
Although all the members were committed to the development of the library, two members were particular instrumental in the early stages. Mrs. Sheppard and Mrs. Pomeroy were very enthusiastic and began a town wide campaign in which everyone donated at least one book. With this cooperation a wide selection of books were gathered.
The next major problem which had to be solved was where to place all these wonderful donations. No building had yet been designated or built. Little did they know other problems were also beginning to arise. The Hester Roberts Building (picture shown) became the temporary solution. A small upstairs room was designated as a storage area and thus became the first Library.
Eight years later there was a flood of immigrants entering the valley as World War II ended. Mrs. Sheppard was chairman of the club and had been dedicated to keeping the library open. In 1919, the room which was housing the library was given over to help shelter the hundred of homeless newcomers to the Valley.
This proved to be disastrous for the struggling library but a great service to the high school. The books were removed and placed in the American Legion Building (shown in picture) which also currently serves as a museum. Citizens began making use of other facilities in other towns rather than utilizing the materials available in the community. However, the high school library was still having books available to students so the books continued to serve the community in this fashion.
The history of the Library becomes somewhat vague until 1930. The interest in the library was still strong but, efforts to accomplish its goals were diminished. In 1930, eleven years after the books were donated to the high school, an exciting revival took place. Various organizations united and dedicated themselves to more community development. The Library became one of the many projects which they sought to accomplish. These were the first tentative steps toward a public library building. It was finally decided that a clubhouse and library would be incorporated into one building.
Many activities were sponsored to raise funds for the new building and through these efforts the Women’s Association Clubhouse was built. Even to this day the building is known affectionately by many as the “Women’s Building” or the “Clubhouse”. Miss Eugenia Sheppard, whose mother had dedicated so much time and effort to the library, was honored for her devoted work on the building. The main part of the building was a stage and serving area with a small back room used for the library. Miss Sheppard took a course in Library of Science, at her own expense, to learn how to catalog books properly.
The Women’s Club became the center for community activities. Whenever a dance, prom or marriage took place, it was held at the “club building”. The Library continued to expand and soon was too cramped for the small room which housed it.
This was a Public Library in the truest sense of the word. The public had built, maintained, manned and organized the library. Public support continued to grow and it soon became necessary to expand the library into another part of the building. Shelves and other needs were built or donated by the people of the town.
In 1939, another building addition was added which was solely dedicated to the library manned by Mrs. Ralp Baughan. She carried out various activities to interest people to visiting the library. She sent out notices telling people of new books which were arriving daily. She had picnics to entice young people to read. Many benefit dinners were also served.
The Library had become an integral part of the community life. It was no longer a luxury but a necessity. Between 1939 and present time, the library began to be a major force in the community. The building itself was leased to the city in 1979 for $1.00 per year for 99 years. In 1982, a small addition was built using Community Development funds.
The Library today is a far cry from the back of the old Hester Roberts Building. It has developed many services which would never have been dreamed of in 1919. Books, of course, are currently available but there’s more. There are DVDs, audiobooks, copy machine, fax services, computers, programs and activities. The building is still the center of activity where anyone can go read, study and be entertained. In 1991, a new addition was made to the library and in fact, tripled its size. The City, County and State have all been instrumental in funding the library but the community has been the key to its development and growth. The Donna Public Library implemented and automated circulation system in 1987. The system allows for circulation of materials, reservations of books and overdue protection. Prior to this system, no overdue control system was in place. The Donna Public Library was the second library in Hidalgo County to implement a complete system such as this. At the time of implementation, the cost for such a system was over $100,000. Since then, many communities have used the Donna Public Library as a model for their own systems.