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Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza: A Physical Focal Point for Literacy in Houston

Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza: A Physical Focal Point for Literacy in Houston



A Year of Collaboration and Growth


The Houston Public Library Foundation is on a path leading to a bright future. Our mission supporting the Houston Public Library links sustaining partners and incomparable new donors to innovative and essential community programs. Throughout our 2017 Impact Report, you will see amazing progress that could only be achieved through a unified focus of committed humanitarians. This report is dedicated to those caring individuals, community-focused foundations, industry leaders, and elected officials who share our belief that the Houston Public Library is leading economic, educational, civic and social opportunities for learning and human interaction.


Sally Swanson, Executive Director


As we culminate our tenth anniversary, the Foundation has a renewed focus on serving the needs of the community through the programs and services offered through the Houston Public Library.


The 2017 Impact Report presents our organizational accomplishments. Key performance indicators increased in every category and aligned with four primary organizational goals:

Goal #1: Establish business excellence.
Goal #2: Increase awareness and community support.
Goal #3: Build and sustain strong relationships.
Goal #4: Raise donations for financial  independence and programmatic support.

A thorough review of internal processes and documenting new ways of work led to risk mitigation practices and affirmed that our redefined business processes align with nonprofit organizational excellence standards. This essential work led to receiving the Better Business Bureau’s Accredited Charity and GuideStar’s Gold Star Charity ratings.

The positive change in fundraising revenue rose from $383,147 in FY 16 to $2,094,273 in FY 17.
Fundraising for the Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza and the inaugural Beyond the Page Luncheon were the two primary sources of the 547% increase.


The Library’s endowments showed growth in the Vanguard investments. The calculation for the fiscal year 2017 annual endowment allocation to HPL is based upon a formula of the average balance of the preceding 12 quarters. The Board of Directors approved a $930,000 annual endowment allocation.

HPLF’s growth mindset will lead HPLF into a strong financial position that not only increases funding for essential library programs but also values strong partnerships within the community. Our integrated culture of philanthropy engages all partners as an essential member contributing to mission delivery.

Success is most easily described by numbers, yet true success is embedded in the way library programs change lives. A real Impact Report is a compilation of stories of how our neighbors’ lives are enriched through library programs. We couldn’t do this vital work without you. Thank you for being part of our 2017 success story!

Signature Licia A. Green Ellis -HPLF.png

Licia A. Green Ellis







Increase in fundraising revenue


Annual endowment to the houston public library


over $2 million

Fundraising revenue in FY 17


visits to the foundation's new website


For thousands in our city, HPL continues to serve as a civic and cultural gathering space.


The Houston Public Library is a place for workforce preparedness and educational support, a safe place, and a center of community life. In our rapidly paced world of constant technological, environmental, political and societal changes, the library is a place where one can still find expert assistance and devoted, one-on-one human interaction. 

HPL is the place where people can explore, dream, and, reach for their aspirations with the vast array of tools and resources our libraries make free and accessible.

This year HPL re-opened three renovated libraries (Henington-Alief, Jungman, and Stimley-Blue Ridge, and one new library, Young, across the city. The openings of these libraries were eagerly awaited by their surrounding communities and have been soaring in use since their grand openings


The new state-of-the art Young Library building emulates the absolute best that HPL has to offer.

HPL listened carefully and worked closely with community members to conceptualize and develop the vision for this location, including the exciting selection of services and programs and popular materials. This collaboration with the community, the Mayor’s office, the Council Members Office, and the General Services Department has produced our most beautiful and vibrant library in the City of Houston.

70,000 customers have walked through Young Library’s doors within a 9-month period, a 48% increase in visitors over last year in the same time period.

"It proves that by working together, we can achieve anything beyond expectations.




In September 2016, HPL launched the Learning Link in collaboration with Houston Independent School District, Mayor Sylvester Turner, and H-E-B. The Learning Link provides 230,000 students a library year-round while enrolled in school. When libraries and schools come together, everyone wins. Libraries foster curiosity and a love of reading, and provide innovative tools to spark exploration and learning during and beyond school hours. This collaboration is designed to open doors to expanded opportunities for our children and provide skills that will last a lifetime. Teachers and students can access HPL's online resources at anytime, anywhere.

Students were able to use their Learning Link accounts to participate in FY 17's
John P. McGovern Summer Reading Program.

This year has been the program’s best year yet with over 25,000 participants including 4,000 adults for the Summer Reading for Grown-Ups series.


The Gregory School serves primarily as an archival library tasked with preserving and celebrating the history of African Americans in Houston and surrounding areas. 


"We are not only here to serve researchers, but also to help teach young Houstonians about their city."

Danielle Burns Wilson, Curator and Manager, African American Library at the Gregory School

The collaboration between HISD and African American Library at the Gregory School (Gregory School), provides new field trip opportunities for HISD students, and encourages more teachers and students to visit the Gregory School. he Gregory School is also a museum, meeting space, and event location.

The first floor consists of a restoration of an early 20th century classroom, an exhibit space, and several galleries that depict the history of Houston through the experiences of African Americans. Knowing that the classroom, galleries, and exhibit space are powerful educational tools, the Gregory School commenced the HISD tours in September 2016. The pilot year served 4th and 5th graders from a selection of area schools.


During the tours, students asked questions about the artifacts, photographs, and informative pieces they saw. One of the most important takeaways was connecting students' lives and local history. Many students recognized photos of Booker T. Washington High School or Jack Yates High School as the alma mater of their parents and grandparents. Others were astonished to learn about African American doctors, entrepreneurs, artists, and politicians from their hometown.

For the academic year of 2016-2017, 832 students from 12 elementary schools visited the Gregory School as a part of this collaboration. This unique learning experience fulfilled Texas history curriculum requirements and connected the community in new and meaningful ways.


Mobile unit service areas in fiscal year 2017

Mobile unit service areas in fiscal year 2017

Outreach Wheels in Motion

In FY17, HPL's Community Engagement Team staffed a total of 826 events, served 305 organizations, gave 448 programs, made direct contact with over 21,000 people in 60 zip codes, through their mobile outreach units.

The HPL Community Engagement mobile units serve as the outreach service arm to customers throughout the City of Houston and surrounding areas while targeting the under-served. The mobile units provide creative outlets, technological accessibility, ranging from providing Improv Puppet Theater, to a Literacy HUB where customers can check out and return books, gaming experiences, internet connection, and digital literacy workshops.



Service Statistics



Registered MY Link Cardholders



Students served thorugh programs


Collection in Circulation



Computer Users


Wi-Fi Sessions



Meetings held at library locations by community groups


Total online and in-person visitors



Workforce Literacy Class Attendees


Partners in Literacy


Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation

A champion of literacy, and longtime collaborator, the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation (BBHLF), continues to support the great work of the Library and has expanded its support of two program favorites – The John P. McGovern Summer Reading Program and the new initiative, Groomed for Literacy.

As one of the super connectors of literacy in Houston, they are integral to the success of our collective literacy efforts, bringing together diverse groups, to make the most significant impact in our community. Their team has supported the Friends of HPL’s volunteering efforts, by providing an intuitive volunteer management platform, Connect4Literacy to reach new library and literacy advocates.

Houston Astros Foundation

In 2017, the Library Foundation started a partnership with the Houston Astros Foundation. In the late Spring, the Astros Foundation reached out to the Library with the idea of a literacy bus, and, since then, communications with their team have been synergistic. The heart of both initiatives, Books at the Ballpark and the Library’s Summer Reading Program met the same mission – empowering youth success through literacy strategies and resources.

The Astros Foundation expanded marketing and outreach efforts on behalf of the Library and the mission of the Foundation. Their support has been vast, expanding across the Summer Reading Program and the Foundation's first Annual Luncheon.



University of Houston-Downtown

This past year we created a new collaboration with University of Houston Downtown. The UH-D Department of Urban Education has supported the Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza campaign and events, and hosted a Readathon at our International Literacy Celebration and Friends Book Sale. The commitment to education, literacy, and public service from UH-D will support library and literacy efforts for years to come.

Friends of the Houston Public Library

The Friends of the Houston Public Library (Friends) is a program of the Foundation. In a given year, the Friends process nearly 800,000 books, from weeded library books and community donations. These books are then sold, upcycled or recycled and turned into vital library programming.

Individual volunteers and volunteer groups are the driving force behind processing the hundreds of thousands of books. Through their commitment, the Friends sells low cost books that can create home or classroom libraries.

In calendar year of 2016, 11 volunteers received the Giving a Hundred Award. The Giving a Hundred Award is granted to volunteers who have given over 100 hours of service in a given year. These 11 individuals gave over 1,875 hours of service combined.




See the full report.