The Julia Ideson was built in 1926. Despite its importance to the Houston Library System, the Spanish Renaissance building is overshadowed by contemporary skyscrapers. 14-months ago, the non-profit Julia Ideson Library Preservation Partners launched a 38-million dollar capital campaign to restore and expand the structure. Mayor Bill White served as inspiration for the group charged with funding the project.
"If you've been in the stacks, thank goodness for the men and women who spent their times in those stacks, preserving our history, and friends of this library, who've done so well for so long with so little but, we need to give them a good temperature controlled environment, where our archives do not deteriorate over time, so we can make digital copies and make them accessible for Houstonians for the future."
Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson is Houston's director of libraries. She says she's impressed with the effort to raise the money to make expansion and rennovation possible.
Lawson: "It is a tremendous opportunity for me, as an information professional, to work in a community, where the libraries are so revered and, where people understand history and understand that preservation is important. When I first arrived, there was all this hoopla about trearing down buildings and all of that kind of thing, and to see that turn around, and people say 'wait a minute, we gotta preserve this history.' Where do you preserve history? You preserve history in your library. So, we have been riding this wave of support. We really appreciate it, it is the best job I've ever had, because of the support of this community."
Hernandez: "You've been to many occassions like this before, but I guess this one might be more significant in that the archive component."
Lawson: "You're absolutley right because it gives us a place where we can keep our history secure, because we're cramped and crowded where we are now and it's not environmentally safe. This new wing will give us an opportunity to organize ourselves, have a place for preservation, and to have a place to better access materials so that we can be more efficient in serving researchers and visitors who come to use the collection."
The new wing should be completed by the end of the year and the restoration will begin shortly thereafter. You can see how the Ideson will look by logging on to www.ideson.org.
Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.