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Monday, April 2, 2012

A brief history of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library

Original Dedication Program
August 26, 1967
The Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library reopened Saturday after a much-needed renovation of its physical plant as well as a re-imagining of its purpose and future.
There are some of us who remember when the library originally opened, back in 1967. The dedication of the library, on August 26, 1967, was a really big deal for Kerrville and Kerr County.
A kind friend brought by a copy of the library's dedication program, and from that treasure I learned the following:
Though Kerr County had its beginning in 1856 (and Kerrville in 1889), the first library wasn't organized until 1931. The Fine Arts League had an auxiliary organization, the Literary Club; its main purpose was to establish a library.
When the League disbanded during the Great Depression, the Literary Club shared its meager resources and "began an struggle for a building that was to take many years to achieve."
The Texas Presbyterian College house on the Westminster Encampment, which was on the side of the Schreiner Institute campus closest to town, became the first library. "Despite the depression a book shower the first year provided nine books and small donations."
Books were loaned at "3 cents per day with a charge for overtime added to the revenue."  Due to club activities membership in the club grew, and the holdings in the library gradually increased.
"With the donation of 390 books in 1939, the library was forced to move its 1300 books into two rooms of the Capt. Schreiner home."  By 1941 membership was opened to the public at $1.00 per year. Around that time the Kerrville Library Association was formed.
In 1954 the library became a free library, meaning its resources were available to everyone. By the county's centennial (1956), the Kerr County Public Library circulated 23,837 books.
Around 1958 a former church building on Water Street, at the corner of Rodriguez street, was purchased, and, for the first time, the library owned its own building.
In 1961 a bookmobile service was provided to Bandera, Gillespie, Kendall, and Kerr Counties, a demonstration project of the Texas State Library Service; it was discontinued after one year due to a lack of funds.
Dedication event, Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, Kerrville, 1967
Front row: Howard Butt, Mary Holdsworth Butt, Lady Bird Johnson,
unknown singer, Tom Murray, Peggy Monroe, Gordon Monroe
Second row: Charles Butt (who has funded the renovations in 2012)
By 1965, "the library again faced expansion and the addition of a new wing was scheduled."  Contributions came in -- around $7,000 -- even before the fund drive was announced.
I'm not sure how the Butt family became involved, but they did, and in a grand way. By the summer of 1967 the new library was complete.
The dedication ceremony really pulled out the stops. Lady Bird Johnson, who was then first lady, came and gave the dedicatory address. Bands played, local officials spoke, anthems were sung, and prayers were offered. And, when the dust settled, Kerr County had a library, one of the best in the state.
For me it was a wonderful event; 2 days after my 6th birthday and the weekend before I started first grade (at Starkey Elementary) this family I'd never heard of -- the Butt family -- built a library, it seemed, just for me.
Because no intersections separated the new library from the print shop I was free to walk there any time. In fact, to get me out of the print shop, I'm sure I was encouraged to walk down to the library.
And walk there I did. Often. I loved the new library.
I'm thankful to the Butt family, as well as hundreds of other families, individuals, and companies who've made the dream of a great library a reality. I look forward to the library meeting the needs of the community for many years to come.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who still has his very first library card. Well, of course he does. He never throws anything away. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 31, 2012.


  1. Great Shot and comments on the "THE NEW Library".
    I took the photos that were published in the Kerrville Daily Times of Lady Bird, my first published photos at the age of 15!
    Keep up the good work.
    Mickey Cooper

  2. I admire the library's design and was wondering if you know the name of the original architect. I've looked online, but have been unable to find it.

    1. The dedication program says "Architects for the building are Christian, Bright & Pennington of Corpus Christi." I understand the design here is similar to a design for another library in Corpus.

  3. My uncle, the late Wesley 'June' Cass, and I landscaped the Butt-Holdsworth library. We laid every brick in the back area, filled them with dirt and planted a small piece of S. Augustine grass from Mosty's Nursery and Flower Shop(started by my Grandfather, the late Harvey Mosty, on the old "San Antone' Hwy-where KPUB now stands) in each brick, 'grassed' the area around the building itself, and trimmed the Live Oaks. While working one morning, I stepped on a power line lying on the ground that had supposedly been disconnected. My tennis shoes were soaking wet from the morning dew and I got electrocuted. Uncle June was near by, saw what was happening and ran over and knocked me off the power line. Talk about a shocking experience! I don't remember if it was Spring of Summer, but I believe I had completed my sophomore year. That would have been in the Spring/Summer of 1967.


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