History of Our Library

Our Beginning

The Harlingen Public Library got its start in 1920 when Mrs. Ina Olivier Lapham Crown saw that the Harlingen community was in need of a library. She received permission from the city to set up a small library in a vacant building in the town’s business section. Its opening was publicized in the Valley Morning Star newspaper and a request was made for book donations. Mrs. Crown served as volunteer librarian for the little library until October 1921.

Pictured right: Mrs. Ina Crown

In October 1921, Mrs. Crown, then a member of a “Study Club,” suggested that they sponsor the development of the Harlingen Public Library as their principal project. It was approved, and Mrs. Crown was then named Library Committee Chairman. Later, Mrs. Harriett Macy, who served with her on the first library committee became the library’s first paid librarian. The library would have no stable home, being relocated repeatedly from vacant building to vacant building as Harlingen grew, until 1928 when it landed in the Women’s Building of city hall for the 23 years that followed.

Charter members of the Study Club: Mrs. Harriett Macy (front), and (left to right) Mrs. J.B. Charles, Mrs. J.C. Myrick, and Mrs. J.T. Foster. Valley Morning Star: April, 14, 1985.

The Lon C. Hill Building

By the 1950s, the library had been housed in the Women’s Building for over two decades. By this time, the library had accumulated over 11,000 volumes in its collection. With Harlingen’s growing population came the need to relocate to a bigger space.

This new building on East Tyler Avenue would cost $85,000 to construct. It would also be home to a bronze plaque inscribed with the names of the men and women from Harlingen who served in WWII.

The dedication ceremony for the new Lon C. Hill Memorial Library Building would be held December 9, 1951. The library would remain there until 1993.

Women's Building
Lon C. Hill Building

Our New Home

Harlingen Public Library
New library features as described in the Valley Morning Star: February 12, 1993.

By the 1970s, the Lon C. Hill building had been expanded to double its original size to accommodate a growing Harlingen community. However, they found the extra space was still inadequate for the amount of daily library visitors.

In the 1990s, the decision was finally made to fund a new library building. The Lon C. Hill Building would be repurposed for city offices in need of more space, and the library would find a new home next to the Harlingen Cultural Arts Building.

The new library building, costing about $4.4 million to construct, would provide new equipment and resources for its patrons. More seating, a computer lab, and a computerized library catalog were among the list of new features.

The new library building located at ’76 Drive opened its doors on February 15, 1993.

Looking to the Future

Today, over a thousand visitors daily use the library’s automated catalog, computers, online databases, and over 112,000 books, magazines, e-books, audiobooks, DVDs and Blu-Rays available for circulation.

We champion creativity, innovation, literacy, and personal and community development for everyone. 

Library Courtyard

Harlingen Public Library will continue to grow and adapt to the changing needs of our community. You can view our Strategic Plan for 2022 to 2027 here.

For more information about the history of the library and our city, see the Valley Morning Star Digital Archives or the Harlingen Public Library Archive Room.

Works Cited: 

“Dedication of Library Set Today During Open House.” Valley Morning Star, 9 Dec. 1951, p. 8, https://harlingen.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?i=f&by=1951&bdd=1950&bm=12&bd=9&d=12091951-12091951&fn=valley_morning_star_usa_texas_harlingen_19511209_english_8&df=1&dt=10. Accessed 24 January 2022. “Women Making Library Funds Drive Just Repeating Early History Here.” Valley Morning Star, 15 Oct. 1940, p. 10, https://harlingen.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?k=women%20making%20library%20funds%20drive%20just%20repeating%20early%20history&i=f&d=01011901-12312006&m=between&ord=k1&fn=valley_morning_star_usa_texas_harlingen_19401016_english_10&df=1&dt=3. Accessed 24 January 2022. “Plans For Harlingen's New Library Will Make Facilities Adequate For First Time; Extension To Start Soon” Valley Morning Star, 7 Dec. 1940, p. 8, https://harlingen.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?i=f&by=1940&bdd=1940&bm=12&bd=7&d=12071940-12071940&fn=valley_morning_star_usa_texas_harlingen_19401207_english_3&df=1&dt=8. Accessed 24 January 2022. “Study Club Helped Launch Library Project.” Valley Morning Star, 14 Apr. 1985, p. G9, https://harlingen.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?k=harlingen%20library&i=f&d=01011901-12312006&m=between&ord=k1&fn=valley_morning_star_usa_texas_harlingen_19850414_english_85&df=21&dt=30. Accessed 24 January 2022. Hodges, Nolene. “City's New Library to Open Doors Monday.” Valley Morning Star, 12 Feb. 1993, p. D1, https://harlingen.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?k=library&i=f&by=1993&bdd=1990&d=01011901-12312006&m=between&ord=k1&fn=valley_morning_star_usa_texas_harlingen_19930212_english_32&df=1&dt=10. Accessed 24 January 2022. Rowe, Larry. “Thousands Take In Sights of Newly-Built Library.” Valley Morning Star, 16 Feb. 1993, p. A2, https://harlingen.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?i=f&by=1993&bdd=1990&bm=2&bd=16&d=02161993-02161993&fn=valley_morning_star_usa_texas_harlingen_19930216_english_2&df=1&dt=10. Accessed 24 January 2022. Rozeff, Norman. “Our Library in Harlingen and How It Grew.” Valley Morning Star, 28 Jan. 2018, pp. D1–D2.