You might have noticed that the HCPL branches have been celebrating our Centennial in many different ways. We have had live shows and dances, activity kits, and many links on information on all of our branches’ history; And it’s not stopping there! There are plenty of other activities that the library has digitally where we can reach out to you even though we can’t program in person. The Centennial Postcards that you might have noticed in the branches, or even in your curbside bags, are one of those engaging features!
Harris County Public Library is celebrating its centennial throughout 2021 and the celebration is just as much about our communities as it is about the length of time that they have kept us running! We have slowly been making our way through the decades and giving access to our past archives of pictures and stories that have happened with our branches; We wanted to ENGAGE with our community and hear THEIR stories. What better way to do that than sending out “snail mail” of our own and creating a way to get in touch with the people who make the library who we are? Thus, the Centennial Postcards came to be!
Amanda Herbert, who helped coordinate the project, from Barbara Bush Branch Library says, “At the beginning of the postcard project, I had never heard of PostSecret. So as a librarian I was like this won’t do, so I started researching immediately. I read the books we have on the shelf and I did a lot of googling. In summary, PostSecret was created by Frank Warren in 2005 and it was started just to share secrets anonymously.
Nancy Hu, set guidelines for the project below, says " the postcard set is meant to collect anonymous memories and comments from the communities that we serve, but it’s also meant to be used as a you would a postcard, to correspond with a friend or family member. " She thought the idea of old fashioned mail, was perfect for this sort of project, and whether the item came back to the library or got mailed to a friend, the library was encouraging writing and recalling of a memory.
The project started as we were going into lock-down in 2020. It was decided that each branch would be responsible for their own branch postcard, the picture or image is supposed to represent not only the branch, but the community around it. The community was the most important part of the project for me because the library system would not be able to turn 100 if it wasn’t for our awesome patrons and communities.
So, all 26 branches designed a front cover with either the branch name, a term for the area around it, or a nickname for the branch; Parker Williams was Parker Williams, Barbara Bush was Cypresswood, and Little Blue Library was Baldwin Boettcher. For some of the branches a tag line at the bottom was used as well, which really finished off some of the cards. Additionally, some of them are quite punny. There were several little requirements, but one of them was that we wanted the post cards to be vintage looking. We got the idea from old state postcards that were quite popular.
The next step was the other side of the postcards where we would put the prompts. Each postcard has a prompt on the backside. There are 12 different prompts. We wanted them to range from crazy like tell us a true-life scary story to share a favorite recipe (including any secret ingredients) so that each card could help contributors or writers respond in different ways.
Amanda hopes that " the public will just write whatever they want to and maybe even a secret because that was the origin of the project… secrets you would probably never share. After 2021 is over, I hope to have so many that we can have pages and pages for our archive site. As we have opened our buildings, we have really gotten many more cards returned."
Nancy hopes the cards get used as postcards would get used and that we get a great variety of responses back from the community, "I hope that our libraries are able to display them in a collective way to show off the richness of our communities, and all the ways our librarians, materials and spaces have enriched their lives throughout the years. "
We, as staff, are even swapping the postcards so we can collect each one of them and really like knowing why each design was chosen and how it was placed on the card. Each card is unique, just like the community it serves.
To help us celebrate our Centennial, Whittier Elementary took some time to draw on our postcards and send them back to us! Aren't they great artists?
Our community is what makes what we do so great and is truly what makes the future development of the resources that the library has to offer so unique. Evelyn Meador Library is turning 33 and has put together this awesome video to showcase their patrons and their many years of service.
We would greatly appreciate any and all notes or pictures on our postcards to help up celebrate. Some of your answers may even become a part of our Library Stories! Talk to a library member today about why you enjoy the library or even why you think the future with libraries in it is so important! It would mean so much to all of us here at Harris County Public Library if we got our community just as excited about the accomplishments and time we've had with you all. Comment below if you got one of these postcards. What did you put on it?