In March, League City officials promoted Meredith Layton to be the new city librarian at Helen Hall Library. Layton, who has been with the library for eight years, spoke to Community Impact about her tenure, recent policy changes and what’s next for the library.

Tell us about your tenure at Helen Hall Library.

I began as the technical services librarian in 2016. Before that, I worked for Harris County ... in [the] Harris County administration as a youth programming person.

I started my career in this neck of the woods in 2007, as a team librarian in Clear Lake. In my time here at Helen Hall, I was promoted to city librarian for access services in 2021 ... and just now as city librarian.

What is something League City residents might not know about the library or services offered?

I think a lot of people associate the library with really traditional services like checking out books, and that's still a big part of people's experience of coming to the library. People might not be aware that we offer programming and events for all ages. So we have babies and books for caregivers and their [little children] all the way through senior programming.

We are also a Family Place Library. Family Place Library is a specific designation we get recertified for every year. It means that we have prioritized services, collections to families with kiddos under the age of 5, really focusing on early literacy and early childhood development collections. We have an interactive play area which is vital for kids—kids learn through play. We have a parenting collection that specifically focuses mostly on resources for parents.

We annually have programming that's a multiweek series that brings specialists in week by week to meet with the same families and their little [child] ... everything from motor development to early literacy and health nutrition.

In the past, you would think about the library as maybe research materials, the reference collection, checking out books, and we still have those things, ... [but it’s also] bringing people together in the same space to have experiences together and opportunities for people to meet their neighbors. I think that's really vital to what we do here.

What has patron feedback been for the new library card fee?

I think that with any change, there are people who may feel very strongly. ... There were definitely some people who had questions at the beginning and especially people who were nonresidents who were impacted by the fee changes. There were a lot of questions and concerns from some of them. They were not the majority of our patrons, obviously, but they were still people who've been using our services for quite some time, and so many of them had a lot of questions about how that was individually impacting them.

Most of our interactions were like, "What is this?" Just trying to understand the change, but, of course, we got positive and negative feedback ... that you might get with any change.

There were people who really appreciated it. ... They felt like it was the right move in terms of prioritizing what type of services they pay for, or I think a lot of people felt a feeling of ... I don't know, safety ... and then obviously there were people who were concerned, like, "I don't understand why I need a card if I live here." It was just kind of explaining ... anybody who's eligible to get a card. It's just whether or not you pay if you are not otherwise paying for it with your tax dollars.

In light of conversations nationwide and in League City about the appropriateness of certain books for children, what is Helen Hall Library doing to ensure it's best serving the community of League City?

Our collection development policies are approved by our Library Board of Trustees, ... [and] we have professional staff who select materials for purchase. All of those selections are reviewed by our library administrative teams, so it’s a team effort to develop those collections.

We solicit a lot of feedback from the public. We have a lot of processes for the community to put in purchase suggestions. We try to purchase as many of those suggested items as we can. Sometimes, we can't purchase everything, but we do patron-driven acquisitions as much as possible. And then, of course, there's a process in place for people who have particular concerns that can be addressed.

What’s next for the Helen Hall Library in 2024 and beyond?

We are about to launch a new strategic planning process that will start quickly. Fairly soon, people will be able to go to our League City Listens page and find information about what the future might hold. We are trying to get a lot of feedback from the community. What is their vision for the library in 2030 because it'll be a five-year plan.

So that is one of the big things that's on our horizon. I think we have a lot of exciting things to look forward to. Pretty soon, we're going to be starting our summer reading program. We're trying to develop more opportunities for outreach in the community, and really engage with our residents, not just those who are coming into the building, but trying to get out in the community and meet people where they are.