Pearland, Friendswood libraries so popular with families that they get multimillion-dollar expansions

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The dawn of the Digital Age brought fears that libraries would become mausoleums to obsolete, printed books as people zip through time and space at the touch of a screen and flick of a finger.

But if impending doom was on the horizon, then Pearland and Friendswood did not get the memo.More rooftops, growth brings expansion to Pearland, Friendswood libraries

Instead, circulation and attendance at the Friendswood Library and Pearland’s Tom Reid Library have gone up and expect to keep growing. To provide more space for young readers and diversify their collections, both cities have invested heavily in increased space for children and young adult books as well as meeting rooms for community gatherings.

“Pearland libraries are well exceeding the rest of the county [in circulation]. We need the space in which people can use Pearland libraries,” said Crystal Carbone, the secretary and former chair of the Pearland Library board. “With all the growth that’s happening right now, we’re bursting at the seams.”

The Tom Reid Library, which is across from City Hall, is expected to undergo a $4.7 million construction project to expand the library by 8,174 square feet and replace its aging heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

The Tom Reid Library expansion plan is in the design phase. City officials expect to award a construction bid in late March and have the project completed by spring 2018. The library underwent a roof replacement last year.

“The city is growing and Pearlanders are asking for more community gathering spaces, more library programming for all ages, and more resources to enhance their learning and leisure,” said Lori Purvis, interim director at the Brazoria County Library System.

Plans were approved in the 2007 bond election, and the expansion would provide new space for a bookstore, children’s story time room, a teen zone, more computer lab space, additional storage, and increased circulation and book stack space.

The expansion of Tom Reid Library comes on the heels of the Pearland Westside Library improvements, which added about 4,000 square feet of space.

Both Tom Reid and Pearland Westside libraries have the highest circulation of any library in Brazoria County. Since October, residents have checked out nearly 94,000 items at Tom Reid and 127,000 at Pearland Westside, according to a report from the Brazoria County Library System.

Circulation includes all items in the library, such as books, audiobooks, movies and electronics. Program attendance has also jumped by 50 percent year-over-year at Tom Reid and has tripled at Pearland Westside.

“Population growth, diversity and the recognition that libraries are an integral part of strong communities definitely contribute to the growing need for libraries across Pearland,” Purvis said.

In Friendswood, the City Council voted in January to accept the Friendswood Library construction project, which was completed last year.

The project added about 6,000- square-feet of additional space to the library, the bulk of which went to a new children’s area. The library also added a computer room, study rooms and conference space for a total cost of $2.7 million.

“It’s a beautiful space,” Friendswood Library Director Mary Perroni said. “Last summer, we had no access to the children’s area except staff access … This summer, now that we’re fully operational, I think it’s going to be a big summer.”

The Friendswood Library had an annual circulation of roughly 350,000 items between October 2014 and September 2015. Construction on the library, which began in April 2015, affected library hours and accessibility during fiscal year 2015-16, but the library expects to grow its circulation with the added space.

The expansion of the library was a long time coming for residents and the library, with initial plans extending as far back as 2000.

Residents approved the library expansion during the 2013 bond referendum, which allocated $2.5 million to the project.

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