More than 11,000 people visited the new library on opening weekend. Several city officials remarked that the large crowd was proof of what they had been saying on the record for several years: A larger facility with more amenities was needed to keep up with the rapidly growing city.
Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan echoed that sentiment and said the new, cutting-edge library fits well with all of the other changes happening in the city.
“We’re not a small town anymore, and we want to save every bit of history,” Morgan said. “But we are going to have some vertical buildings in Round Rock. I couldn’t think of a better one to be in our downtown.”
The landmark project officially began in 2013 when voters approved $23.2 million for a new facility.
Several steps took place between then and June 2021, when construction began with a groundbreaking ceremony honoring the Johnson family, which owned the property at 200 E. Liberty Ave. for generations.
“I know there was a lot of discussion on where to put the library, and I think it ended up in the place it needed to be: right in the core and the heart of downtown,” Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan said.
A piece of history
Prior to selling the land to the city in 2019, the Johnson family owned a bar called the Cozy Corner, which operated for several decades at 200 E. Liberty Ave.
Shortly after the property was sold, the Cozy Corner was torn down, and construction on the new library began in 2021.
The library building reached substantial completion in October, but it could not open until late January. Furniture, shelving and library materials needed to be moved from the old facility a few blocks away on Main Street, said Chad McDowell, director of the Round Rock General Services Department.
The new library features many amenities, including electric vehicle charging stations in the adjacent parking garage, meeting spaces and core programming geared toward children, teens and adults.
Library Director Michelle Cervantes said programming and events will resume at the new location in March.
Cervantes said areas of the library dedicated to reading materials and programming for kids were designed after receiving extensive public feedback.
“They had a lot of great ideas,” Cervantes said. “We tried to incorporate their ideas into the programming of the building. A lot of the space that you’ll see on the young adult/teen side of the space was inspired by their suggestions.”
Similarly, the library’s youngest patrons inspired one of the outdoor amenities known as the Discovery Garden, which is modeled after a similar project at Dell Children’s Hospital. The installation includes rubberized play structures, artificial turf and a labyrinth.
Library customers are already planning the way they will use these new resources, Cervantes said.
“I’ve had so many people already tell me that that’s going to be their new office,” Cervantes said. “They’re going to come bring their laptop and set up.”
Many of the people who attended the Jan. 28 grand opening event have been longtime Round Rock Public Library patrons.
Attendee Gwen Agbatekwe emphasized the importance of libraries to communities. She said her family members are avid readers and her children often participate in library activities.
“I think it is one of the most amazing and wonderful things for Round Rock,” Agbatekwe said. “It’s kind of long overdue.”
Similarly, Alyson Arguilo and Sherri Arrington said they are excited to see the new library programming calendar when it is released in March.
Arguilo, one of the first to check out a book from the new library, said she wants to see more people, especially teens, taking advantage of the meeting spaces in the new facility as that function was limited in the old building.
While the library is bringing a host of new services and amenities to residents, there is one piece of the old library that community members wanted to keep: the red bathtub.
Located in the children’s area of the old library, the red bathtub functioned as a reading nook for patrons.
“We’ve been bringing our little ones to see the bathtub for generations,” Arguilo said.
The city initially planned to not include it as part of the new library, she said.
Arrington and Arguilo said a contingent of library patrons caused a stir on Facebook, prompting library staff to change plans and transport the tub to the new location after it is refurbished.
As the line of people at the grand opening event continued to wrap around the block, Arguilo said she and Arrington would return to the library to fully explore on a less crowded day.
“It’s Round Rock,” Arrington said. “We turn out to support everything.”
A 10-year journey
Voters approved the construction of a new library as part of a 2013 bond election, but the entire process to open the facility took nearly a decade.
- May 2013: Voters approve a $23.2 million bond.
- January 2018: Round Rock officials select PGAL as the project architect.
- April 2019: City Council approves $4.2 million to purchase land for the new library.
- Feb. 11, 2021: City officials award a construction contract to architecture firm Hensel Phelps for $29.8 million.
- May 14. 2021: Library designs are unveiled.
- June 2021: City officials host a groundbreaking ceremony at 200 E. Liberty Ave. in downtown Round Rock.
- October 2022: The city receives a certificate of substantial completion for the new library.
- Jan. 28, 2023: The library opens.
The new Round Rock Public Library has several features and amenities that will facilitate new programming and services resuming in March.
Rocksssanne NoFeet, the library's pet python, was relocated to the new facility. Rocksssanne was adopted Jan. 20, 2000, and library staff said she was about 3 years old at the time. Her new habitat is near the reference desk on the second floor.
Features and amenities
- First floor
- Computer lab
- Classroom space
- Meeting rooms
- Second floor
- Programming room
- Teen space
- Discovery Garden
- Study rooms
- Third floor
- Conference rooms
- Study rooms
- Quiet space
- 286 parking spaces
- Vehicle charging stations
- Bus stop