Glorious Galveston

Half of the outside of the huge Rosenberg Library fits right in with the Victorian beauties of Galveston’s historic district.  Set amongst streetlamps and palms in this coastal resort about 45 minutes from Houston on the Texas gulf…

…the roomy facility reflects the opulence and elegance of the city’s heyday.  Built in the Italian Renaissance style and dedicated on patron Henry Rosenberg’s birthday in 1904, there are three floors and a mezzanine.  The decorative masonry and huge old brass handled doors outside prepare you for the richness of the high ceilinged lobby where marbled floors continue up the walls and dark wood back to back benches beckon you to sit a moment and enjoy the grandeur.   

Due to the devastation it experienced in 2008 from Hurricane Ike, the Children’s Area has been temporarily relocated next to the entrance, giving youngsters exposure to the lovely wood paneling, marble fireplace, brasses and busts of bygone days. 

Modern touches here include children’s furniture, car bucket seats, and a large selection of youth CDs, DVDs and Spanish books and book/CD combos.  A nice set of shelves holds fun oversize books, and I love the alligator holding the board books. 

They have weekly storytimes too and are a popular spot for class visits.  The website has a colorful and enticing children’s section with games, databases and a lizard hunt. 

The library size doubled in 1971 when the Moody Memorial Wing was built on lower ground with a first floor entrance.  So this wonderful hall is actually on the second floor, which includes a large, attractive permanent Friend’s book sale area…

…and a gorgeous and spacious periodicals room, with old tables and cool green shade lamps.  There’s a huge selection of magazines and newspapers on both sides of the room and a big shuttered window lets in natural light.

Since reading Isaac’s Storm, about the 1900 hurricane that took the lives of about 8000 people here (click here for the library’s virtual presentation on this storm), I’ve wanted to see Galveston and its ten mile long seawall.  Sadly, water is still the town’s nemesis, and during Ike, the first floor of the facility was inundated by flood waters.  A blue line visible through this closed off stairwell to the damaged area shows the high water mark.

 

With help from FEMA, grants and private funding, they have already done extensive repairs to the building’s infrastructure and exterior.  Close to the revealing stairwell, this digital before and after slideshow scrolls through photos of the damage and subsequent reconstruction.

Wisely, a nearby donation box (as well as the website) provides ample opportunity to contribute funds to the effort.  The “Rosenberg Restored” fundraiser will allow them to renovate the damaged interior.  Soon the lowest level will again house Children’s as well as Circulation, staff offices and three additional meeting rooms. 

The large Young Adult Corner and New Book area as well as media shelving and many of the 48 public computers (including two where you can upload pictures or scan in items) have their space on the mezzanine, a kind of half level created by the new wing.  YA’s can play a game at the Monopoly table, or checkout video games, manga, teen magazines and DVDs (oh and books too, of course).      

They can also get homework help on Tuesdays and Thursdays, play “Games of Chance, Games of Skill” or participate in “YA Creative Minds”, a program for budding artists that gives them the chance to have their creations scanned and posted to the Young Adult Blog.

Rosenberg is headquarters for the eight locations of the Galveston County Library System which serves over a quarter of a million people, so it’s not surprising that the Galveston and Texas History Center (GTHC) is also here (though I couldn’t take pictures due to the damaging effects light can have on old materials). 

 

On the stunning third floor, GTHC sells historic prints of the area and is collecting stories about Ike for its archives.  There’s a submission form at their website for those who’d like to share their experiences.  This is such a good way for archivists to collect source material that it really shouldn’t be limited to major events or catastrophes.  We may think our lives aren’t anything special, but future local history buffs and residents will be fascinated to read the words and thoughts of present day contributors.

Four of the five rentable meeting rooms are also up here including the Harris Gallery lecture space with its changing art exhibition and the glorious Fox room shown below.

 

The meeting rooms are a great service for the community as they provide space for sorority meetings, study clubs, book groups and poetry readings as well as hosting library events like e-books assistance classes, movie nights (Tim Burton’s Big Fish and Corpse Bride were on the calendar when I visited) and programs like Mark Twain 100 Years Later – a performance by Dave Elhert. 

There’s also a four seat computer classroom – when not taken by one of the library’s many computer classes it can be used by outside instructors or for presentations.  The adjacent Sealy Pavilion & Mary Moody Northen Plaza can also be reserved through the library for al fresco events.

The fabulous bi-level Rosenberg Library Museum is also up here.  I was a bit dazzled by all the glowing wood and crystal, so museum assistant Travis Bible helped me figure out what everything was.

With numerous physical and online galleries and displays, the place is a bit overwhelming, but the light from this window…

…and the sounds of ship’s bells, sea birds and waves drew me towards the James M. Lykes Maritime Gallery.  Here, models of sailboats, a panel on the history of Galveston’s causeways and the realia of the Galveston: Treasure Isle of the Gulf display remind you of the surrounding ocean and with the help of an interactive big screen TV you can even pilot a ship virtually on the rolling seas.

The museum also has a gift shop which sells Galveston playing cards with four different designs.  The decks give facts about the area’s history, culture and citizens, both infamous (evidently the 1920’s were a bit wild) and famous. 

And that’s not all.  They also have wifi and lots of Spanish materials for adults, including DVDs for Spanish speakers.  There’s a big large print collection, and via the website you can access Mango Languages, download books/videos, ask an email reference question or use their many reading lists.  They also offer books by mail and delivery to the homebound, hospitals and community centers.

What a remarkable library!

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