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Description of Project

The Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza capital campaign has two phases. The HPL Foundation completed the $1,578,474 fundraising for Phase One in 2016. Construction began in September and was completed in 2017.

The improvements include a new twelve hundred square foot, covered entertainment stage with outdoor lighting and a sound system. Small theater groups and students will use the public performance space. New landscaping and lighting enhances the stage and adjacent areas including the 100-year-old oak trees along the Julia Ideson Building.

New fences with sliding gates on both McKinney and Lamar Streets were installed. The gates are open during daylight hours and closed at night, providing additional security for the Plaza’s features.

In addition to improving aesthetics, the Plaza required structural work. The Library has administrative offices under the Plaza. The renovation involved significant infrastructure repairs that the general public will never notice but are important to the viability of the staff work spaces.

Who Will Benefit

The Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza is the gateway to the Central Library which is the premier space for the Houston Public Library. The Central Library links the community to resources that will help them unlock their potential and create a better life for themselves. In addition to providing books and periodicals, the Central Library is a critical technological hub with over 230,000 computer users. Each computer station serves over 900 individuals throughout the year at this one location.

The Central Library serves 119,600 individuals who are at or below the federal poverty level annually. Many of those in need are indigent. The Plaza is a safe space to congregate, and human service organizations use this connection to provide medical screenings, distribute toiletries and supplies, and suggest connections with additional local services. All Library visitors have access to a wide variety of programs that focus on the needs of our diverse communities. The majority of Library programs align with Youth Services, Job Readiness, Digital Inclusion, and Special Collections. One element that unites all of those unique yet essential services is literacy.

Literacy is the key to success at every stage of a person’s life. Children are more successful in school if they have reading readiness by the time they enter kindergarten. This begins at birth with parents reading or singing to their children. Studies have shown that students are more successful if they have books in the home.

The need to improve literacy also involves 20% of Houston’s adult population. The Library offers classes where adults can learn how to read without a social stigma. Literacy is the core component to our library system, and collectively, we must elevate the need for literacy to the highest level. Literacy is the cornerstone to being successful, and a community with a high literacy rate also has higher productivity and even higher incomes.


Program Expansion


Multicultural Events

Movie Nights

Speaker Series

Musicians/Concert Series

Monthly Java Jazz

Theater District Performances

Children's Museum Programs

Crafting Events

Step and Dance Performances

Sporting Viewing Events

Description of Organization & Services

The Houston Public Library system links people to the world through educational, recreational, and cultural programs for persons of all ages, ethnicities, and life stages. The City of Houston’s budget does not fund the Library’s program activities. Instead, these essential programs exist through philanthropic partners who share our collective belief in the transformational power of lifelong learning.

The Houston Public Library Foundation, Inc. was established as an IRS 501(c)(3) organization in 2007 and replaced the historical, volunteer-led Houston Library Board. Our organizational mission is to support the Houston Public Library’s wide range of initiatives with particular emphasis on its neighborhood libraries and their community programs. Through our efforts, all library programs are free.

The Houston Public Library (HPL) holds 3.6 million items, has more than one million computer users, and serves more than seven million visitors a year. HPL answers 700,000 reference questions, circulates seven million books, magazines, and audio-visual materials. Over 200,000 youth, adults, and senior citizens participate in HPL programs in a single year. HPL is dedicated to serving all of Houston’s residents including vulnerable populations of the homeless, the undereducated, areas with high poverty, and inner-city youth.


Our Office

550 McKinney Street
Houston, Texas 77002


Plaza Naming Opportunities

We have multi-year gift pledge and naming opportunities. Nestled between the Jesse H. Jones Central Library and historic Julia Ideson Building, the Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza is creating a lasting legacy in Houston.

Name *





 1 Honorary Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza  Permanent
 1 Named Janice and Robert C. McNair
Performance Stage
25 years
 1 Named Phillips 66 Company
Jumbo Video Screen
25 Years
 1 $500,000 Downtown Dining 25 Years
 1 $500,000 Majestic Oaks Dining 25 Years
1 Named George H.W. and Barbara Bush
Children's Reading Garden
25 Years
1 Named George H.W. and Barbara Bush
Adult Reading Garden
25 Years
 1 $250,000 Literacy Lounge 10 Years
 1 $250,000 Puppet Theater 10 Years
 4 $100,000 Flower Gardens 10 Years