It is always sad to hear that another library has closed, or is closing. All those precious books to be sold in book sales or auction, or worse—destroyed. Libraries hold a soft spot in my heart, and I have spent many hours in the library reading and researching, and I have spent many hours with my kids checking out books and movies. I also worked part-time at my local library as a Library Assistant, and then became Library Director. My local library closed during the pandemic and never re-opened. The Fort Worth Central Library was never one that I frequented often, and is now shutting its doors.
Fort Worth’s downtown library has shifted locations a few times in its 120-year history. In April 1892, several women meeting in the home of Jennie Scott Scheuber formed the Fort Worth Public Library Association, paving the way for the first library. Built in 1901 by H.H. Greene in the neoclassical style on Hyde Park land granted by Mrs. Sarah Jennings (with a stipulation that the land always be used for a library/park purposes) and a generous donation of $50,000 from Andrew Carnegie, The Carnegie Public Library opened on October 17th 1901 at 915 Throckmorton Street.Green, Herbert H., Architect, Schwartz, Charlie L, photographer. Carnegie public library, Fort Worth, Texas / photo by Charlie L. Schwartz. Ft. Worth Texas, ca. 1905. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2007684776/.
During the onset of the Great Depression, reading rooms were becoming overcrowded, and it became apparent that a bigger library would need to be built. An appeal from the library board to the Public Works Administration in 1933 eventually secured funds for a larger building, but those funds would not arrive until 1937. The Carnegie Public Library was demolished in 1938, making way for a new triangular shaped three story building designed by Joseph R. Pelich. After serving as head librarian for 37 years, Mrs. Scheuber retired and Harry Peterson became the first professional library director, who was responsible for converting the library’s collection to the Dewey Decimal System.
The Fort Worth Public Library remained at this location for almost 40 years until the library moved to its current location on West 3rd Street in 1978. With funding from a bond proposition, a new building was built to accommodate the growing population. This building was originally designed as an underground library with street access through the Tandy Center Subway, and would be plagued with roof leaks for years. In 1981, Edwin E. Bewley, the great grandson of Sarah Jennings, initiated a lawsuit against the City of Fort Worth to regain the property - citing that it was not being used as a public library or for any other purpose which fell within the terms of the April 8, 1892 Agreement, and its use as a public library had been abandoned by the City of Fort Worth. The city tried to appeal, but lost, granting Sarah Jennings' heirs entitlement to recover the title and take possession of the property. The land and the building were later sold to a private developer.Copyright © 1997–2023 John Roberts. Architecture in Fort worth "Fort Worth Public Library". https://www.fortwortharchitecture.com/fwlib.htm.
The Fort Worth Public Library, or Fort Worth Central Library as it is known, added an expansion in 1995, raising the entrance to street level. The interior was redone in 1999, but the Fort Worth Tornado that swept through downtown in March 2000, caused millions of dollars worth of damage to the new additions. The library remains incredibly underutilized - only one of three floors is accessible to the public. Staff closed the basement at the start of the pandemic and the third floor, which they can only access by using a ladder and a maze of hallways, remains unfinished. This unfinished floor reflects the troubled history of the building.
The Central Library building was sold in December 2022 for $18 million. City officials decided that the location no longer fit into the library's future plans and that they would be seeking something smaller to ensure that a library would still be present within the community.
I am an avid reader and although I have traded my hard copies in favor of digital copies, I still believe our libraries play a key role in our communities. Libraries are more than just a place for stocking the bookshelves. By providing services like e-books, e-readers, computers, tablets, and Wi-fi, our libraries are allowing easy access to digital
information, which is a crucial step in becoming more modernized. Libraries also offer free workspace to get together with you team on projects and videoconferencing. They are our universal centers that provide access to information to anyone, and everyone, and equal access to everyone is a core value of libraries.