The first Independence Heights Library Task Force Meeting was held at Kennedy Elementary School on March 4 and already is bearing fruit. Twenty-one school librarians, students and community stakeholders attended the March 10 City of Houston Capital Improvement Planning Meeting to advocate for the construction of a public library in Independence Heights.
Task force members, dressed in red shirts to illustrate their solidarity, attended the meeting at Jeff Davis High School in the neighboring Near Northside community. Speaking on behalf of the Independence Heights Redevelopment Council and library task force were Rev. John Bowie, pastor of True Light Missionary Baptist Church, and 12-year-old Independence Heights resident, Shaunice Hawkins.
“Everyone doesn’t have internet,” Hawkins said. “Personally, I don’t have internet. So, I would need a library to help me with homework and assignments.”
Hawkins is not alone. With a median neighborhood income of approximately $10,000, it is likely that most students do not have access to technology. Other resources like after-school programs that a library could provide would be an added benefit.
“The youth spoke at Vision Day, saying they need a place to go. If we had a library, they could go to the library after school, and their parents could pick them up from there. They would have a safe haven,” said Shauntell Black, youth coordinator for the Independence Heights Redevelopment Council.
Long-time residents, who have traveled five to 10 miles to give their children access to learning opportunities, said a public library is long overdue. Additionally, there are no public spaces for senior citizens to gather or enjoy activities. So, a library is needed for the elderly as well.
City of Houston officials said they are waiting on a response from Harris County regarding the bid the city submitted for the proposed library property at Crosstimbers and North Main.
Next, the task force will attend the April 13 Harris County Commissioner’s Court session to lift up the reasons a library is needed. And, a middle school student has pledged to write a song, which the group can use to promote interest and build momentum during its advocacy outings.