In 1947, the 12 members of the Share-a-Book Club, all ladies, were granted their petition to Commissioners' Court of Fort Bend County to establish a library. You can read more about the founders here. The club members solicited support from civic organizations, religious leaders, and individuals throughout the county. Fifty residents from all areas of the county were present on May 12, 1947, when the commissioners voted to establish a county library.
The first library opened in 1948 with 1,000 books and was housed in the Rosenberg City Hall; the first county librarian was Mary Lee Cooper. In February 1948, Mr. and Mrs. A.P. George donated land for Polly Ryon Hospital and a library building. The first bookmobile was purchased in July, and in November 1948, work began on the new Fort Bend County Free Library building.
The new building opened July 7, 1949, at a cost of more than $50,000, and with a collection of 8,111 volumes. The building was expanded to about 6,000 square feet in 1958, enabling the library to open an historical records room, which housed the D.A.R. collection. The total book collection at that time was 36,594 volumes.
The Friends of the Fort Bend County Library was organized in February 1972. In May, they donated to the library a 16-foot book trailer and 1,255 books. The trailer was moved to Orchard in 1975 and set up as a mini-branch, serving the public there until it was closed in 1984.
In 1974, two new branch libraries were opened, both named in honor of the Georges: The Mamie George Branch in Stafford and the Albert George Branch in Needville. Funding for construction of the two libraries was provided by The George Foundation in Richmond, Texas. The site in Stafford was donated by the Fort Bend Independent School District; the site in Needville was donated by the Needville Chamber of Commerce and the Needville Lion's Club. Each branch was 4,900 square feet.
Bookmobile service was discontinued in 1976, as school libraries grew and branch libraries served community needs. In 1979, The George Foundation donated land for a new main library in Richmond. The Foundation also contributed most of the $8.4 million spent on constructing the 77,360-square-foot facility, which was named the George Memorial Library. (4% of the cost of construction was covered by General Revenue-Sharing funds.)
The new George Memorial Library opened in June 1986. The building included three levels and featured an outdoor amphitheater and plaza, a meeting room, a gallery for exhibitions, a children's theater, a genealogy/local history department, and an audiovisual department. A water sculpture on the plaza was donated in 1991.
Fort Bend County voters approved a $10.9-million bond issue in 1989 to build four new libraries (the Missouri City Branch, the First Colony Branch, the Bob Lutts Fulshear/Simonton Branch, and the Sugar Land Branch) and to renovate the main library (including installation of an automation system) and existing branches. In 1990, the Fort Bend County library system assumed operation of the County Law Library, and a mini-branch was opened in Simonton, staffed completely by volunteers.
Renovation of the Mamie George Branch was completed in 1990. The 18,462-square-foot Missouri City Branch Library opened in June 1992, with an opening-day collection of 25,000 volumes. The building cost $2,430,375 and has a capacity for 80,000 items. The First Colony Branch opened the next June (1993), a 19,400 square-foot building with a capacity for 95,000 items, and costing $2,785,587. The Sugar Land Branch site was purchased in 1993, with completion expected in 1995.
In 1995, the second floor of George Memorial Library was renovated to include the Distance Learning and Telecommunications Center, and the audiovisual department was relocated from the first to the second floor of the building.
Albert George Branch was renovated and expanded to include a new entrance, public restrooms and a meeting room in 1997. In May 1998, the 10,500-square-foot Bob Lutts Fulshear/Simonton Branch opened with a capacity for 50,000 items and at a cost of $1,450,617. The library system upgraded from the Dynix automation system to the Horizon system in 1998.
The mini-branch at Simonton was closed in 1998, as a Katy/Fort Bend mini-branch was opened at the University of Houston/Cinco Ranch that same year. Katy/Fort Bend became a full-service branch in 1999, when it was relocated to leased space in the former sales office for Cinco Ranch developers. A branch manager and part-time staff were hired; however, volunteers continued to be essential to the operation of the branch.
In 1999, the Sugar Land Branch opened with a capacity for 85,000 items. The 21,392-square-foot building cost $3 million. In 2000, the small-business center that had been housed at Missouri City Branch since 1996 was moved to Mamie George Branch, which received minor renovations and rearrangement to accommodate the business center.
Approximately 5,000 square feet of remaining unfinished space on the second floor of George Memorial Library was finished in early 2002. The space houses two conference rooms, a new computer lab, and additional study and bookstack space.
A new library to replace the small Katy/Fort Bend Branch building was opened in 2004; it was re-named Cinco Ranch Branch Library. The 3.37-acre site was donated to the county by Terrabrook. The cost of construction for the new building was $4.5M, which came from fundraising efforts, a matching grant, and county funds. The building is 33,500 square feet and has a capacity for 120,000 books.
The library system continually strives to provide the latest technology for libraries. Wireless service was made available in 2004 to patrons in three branch locations: George Memorial Library, First Colony Branch, and Cinco Ranch Branch. (Wireless technology is now available at all FBCL locations.)
In May 2006, voters approved a bond referendum which included $24.5M for the construction of three county library projects: the Sienna Branch, the University Branch, and renovations at George Memorial Library.
Sienna Branch Library, located in Missouri City, opened in April 2010. It was the first library to be built in partnership with an educational institution, and it would be shared by residents of Fort Bend County and the students of the college. A two-story, 45,000-square-foot building, the library sits on a 4.5-acre site adjacent to Houston Community College Southwest – Missouri City (which later moved to a new site near the Missouri City Branch Library). The Sienna Branch was also the first county library to utilize Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in its checkout system. This new feature was built in to the outside and inside book drops, and enables items to be automatically checked in as they are returned in the book drop. Sienna also has six self-check machines with RFID technology. (RFID technology is now standard at all FBCL locations.)
The University Branch Library opened on November 10, 2011, on the University of Houston-Victoria campus on Highway 59 in Sugar Land. Built in partnership with the University of Houston System -- Sugar Land (UHSSL) and Wharton County Junior College, the University Branch is the second joint-use facility in the Fort Bend County library system. This two-story building has a capacity for 100,000 books and consists of 40,193 square feet, making it the third largest library in the library system.
Renovations at George Memorial Library began in May 2013. Collections were rearranged for better access and to accommodate new areas, such as a new Middle Grades department on the second floor. The administrative offices would be relocated from the library to a new administration building being built behind the library. The area vacated by administration became additional study rooms, a staff-training lab, and an Internet Cafe.
The new administration building opened in June 2014. The two-story, 17,000-square-foot building is located behind George Memorial Library. The building houses administration, the business office, the marketing and communications office, adult programming and outreach, the collection development department, and the support services department.
In the spring of 2015, the Mamie George Branch closed for two months for minor renovations. The most significant change included the addition of a makerspace, an area set aside in the library where patrons can create, edit, and publish special projects, such as digital and electronic art, videography, and much more. The makerspace project began in 2014, when the library received the Amigos Fellowship and Opportunity Award for innovation and development of new library services. The award included a grant to be used for equipment for the makerspace, which is the first of its kind for FBCL.
In the fall of 2015, voters approved a bond referendum that included $13.4M for a new 35,000-square-foot library to serve the growing population in the north side of the county; site to be determined. The bond also included $6.4M for the renovation and expansion of the Missouri City Branch; the expansion would include a 3-story, 9,600-square-foot addition to the existing building.
With the addition of four new 3D printers in the fall of 2016, FBCL continued to stay on the forefront of implementing innovative technology for the citizens of the county. Located at George Memorial Library, the Sienna Branch, the Cinco Ranch Branch, and in the makerspace area of the Mamie George Branch, the 3D printers help people of all ages develop the skills and competencies they need to thrive in a high-tech world.
The Missouri City Branch closed in the summer of 2017 so that renovations and expansion of the building could begin. The expansion includes more meeting-room and study-room space, as well as additional space for public computers. The work is expected to be completed in 2019.
At the end of 2017, construction began on the new Mission Bend Branch Library, a project made possible by CAD-6 funding. The library has a tentative opening date for the first quarter of 2019.