Hutto Public Library Celebrates 10 Years of Community and Enrichment

These days, the Hutto Public Library is a bustling place, with a full staff, nearly 35,000 items in annual circulation, and almost 1,000 scheduled activities a year including classes and story times to keep patrons of all ages entertained and engaged. For a growing city, the Library is a vibrant hub of activity, but it wasn’t always that way.

In fact, in 2007, when Yasmeen Jehangir interviewed for the position of head librarian, the City of Hutto didn’t even have a library. “A library is the face of a town,” she said, “and we didn’t have anything.”

Jehangir applied for the job on a bit of a whim. “I was reading a publication put out for libraries, and saw the ad. My daughter told me to just go for it. I’d worked for Pflugerville for a long time as a children’s librarian, but I didn’t really think I’d get hired for the position in Hutto.”

She did though, in May 2007, and that’s when the real work started. There was a planned spot to create a library, an old pawn shop on a busy corner, but between the traffic and the lack of parking, the library committee opted to sell the building and keep looking. They ended up buying a building that had formerly housed the fire department.

“There was an empty shell of a building, with these big roll up doors,” Jehangir said. “There were no shelves, and there were boxes of books just stacked up.  I had a desk, but it was next to some parks equipment that was being stored in the building too.”

Undaunted, she started sorting through all the boxes of books. “You never knew what you were going to pull out of the boxes with the book,” she said. “There were crickets, lizards, all sorts of things. In the morning, I just put my gloves on and started working.”

Jehangir credits volunteers for helping get the library off the ground. “One day, I was sitting in the building sorting books and a couple came in. That was Richard and Sherry Miller, and then Wanda Anderson showed up, and they were just so much help.”

At one point, the Liberty Hill Library donated shelves they had replaced, and Jehangir jumped at the chance to finally have places for her books. “They showed up on this pallet, all except one I had managed to convince [the library] to leave assembled. It was a pile of metal sheets, just stacked up,” she said. “I handed Richard a bag of screws, and pointed at the shelf and said ‘Can you make them look like that?’ and he did. It took him a little while to get the first one put together but then he just got it all done. He always said he could do anything for me, and he did.”

Slowly but surely, the library started to take shape, said Jehangir. “Once we got the shelves in, it started to really come together.”

After months of work, the library opened on March 24, 2008. The first children’s summer program started in June, and the library received official accreditation by the state in six months.

“It was amazing. For the reading programs, I’d roll up the doors and there would be kids just all over,” she said. “I remember having kids visit from Pflugerville, several classes, and we just rolled up the doors, and had the classes rotating in and out. I’d tell one class a story and there would be 10 rows of 10 kids, then the bus would show up, pick up one class, and then drop another one off.”

Over the years, the library continued to grow. Jehangir requested more staff, and slowly started adding part-time librarians. Lisa Riggs, the current library director started out as one of Jehangir’s part time employees.

“Oh, I had employees come, work for a year, then move on to something else,” she said. “When Lisa showed up, I knew she was something special.”

Riggs was so special, in fact, that Jehangir fought to make her a full-time employee. “I told the city manager that I didn’t want another two part-time positions, I just want to have Lisa full-time, and they agreed to it.”

Riggs became a force for good in the library. “I remember thinking Lisa was going to burn herself out,” said Jehangir. “I was always telling her to slow down. She didn’t listen.”

Over the next few years, Jehangir started teaching Riggs everything she would need to take over for her one day. “I don’t even know if she knew that I was doing that,” she said. “I’d just bring her in and say that she needed to learn this or that and she did. She never said no, and I knew that I’d found someone I could turn ‘my’ library over to.”

In 2014, the library expanded from 1,200 square feet to 4,000 square feet by enclosing the old fire station bays, and increased the number of special events and programs offered.

In 2015, Jehangir retired but the library she helped create kept growing. Heading into its second decade, Riggs is more excited than ever to see what the future holds.

“There’s been a progression,” she said. “We started small, we’re in the middle of everything and now we’re taking steps forward.” The new Hutto Public Library space will have separate areas for children, young adults, the computer lab, as well as meeting and study rooms, allowing the library to increase their programming and offerings for both adults and children.

“We’re going to be able to increase our story time offerings, our performances and our summer reading programs,” said Riggs. “People are jam-packed in here most nights, and it’s going to be great to give our ESL classes their own space, and still be able to host Hooks and Needles, or the genealogy classes. They’ll all be separate, but part of the library.”

Riggs hasn’t lost touch with her former boss, even with all the changes. “Yasmeen continues to be one of my biggest mentors,” she said. “I never knew this was what I wanted to do, but it’s just been amazing.”

The Hutto Public Library is more than just a building to Riggs. “We’re a place of opportunity,” she said. “We’re here for everyone. We want to help with job searches, so you can have the opportunity to get a better job. We want to help you with homework, so you can get an opportunity to get into a good school. We’re here so you can have the opportunity to read books you’ve never read before, or learn things, or just socialize with your community.”

As the library celebrates it’s 10th birthday, it looks forward to a new library in the City Hall at the Co-Op District with the capacity to grow its collection and offerings significantly. “The new Hutto Public Library will be bigger and better,” she said. “I want the community to know that this is the place to be as we head into the future.”

Please join the Hutto Public Library, the Friends of the Hutto Public Library and fellow residents to celebrate the Hutto Public Library’s 10th birthday from 10 a.m. to noon on Sat. April 14 at 205 West St. The event will feature birthday cake, cookies, and activities. The El Rancho Petting Zoo, sponsored by the Friends of the Hutto Public Library, will be on site as well.

Hutto Public Library sponsorships are available now. Support your local library by sponsoring programs and funding new library services and technologies while working to maintain and enhance Hutto’s quality library. Sponsorship opportunities are available for all budgets and may be tax-deductible through the FOTHPL. Sponsorships included rooms, furniture, mobile MakerSpace items and more.

For Hutto Public Library sponsorship opportunities, please visit http://www.huttotx.gov/departments/library/sponsor_the_hutto_public_library.php.