The Belton Journal

The Lena Armstrong Library is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. Last year the library recorded 47,250 visitors.

In the logo presented last week in the Belton Journal, there are many things to be found inside the logo.

In the number “1” is WWC for the Women’s Wednesday Club which founded Belton’s first library. The hotel on the 1 is the Central Hotel on 2nd Avenue and Main Street. The hotel was operated by the Women’s Commonwealth known as the Belton Sanctificationists, better known as the Sanctified Sisters.

The number “2” has items from the Library Mural and the current Library building at the bottom. The “5” has the Carnegie Library on Main Street. This building houses the Bell County Museum. Lena Armstrong herself has the library stamp, with Armstrong handing Roscoe Harrison Jr. a library card. Roscoe Harrison Jr was the first African American child to receive a library card in Belton. Summer Reading at the library began in 1989.

“Friends of Library are hoping to receive stories from folks about the library. These stories will be shared this summer. The Women’s Wednesday Club was a study club. They read literature and poetry and then studied these pieces. The group met in the living rooms. Across Texas, there were multiple such clubs. The Sanctified Sisters owned the Central Hotel and let them use a room for the library,” said Kim Kroll, Director of Services for the Lena Armstrong Library.

When the book collection outgrew the room, the club rented a space in the Harris & Walker building on Main Street.

Emma A. Lee was hired as the first librarian, and members of the club set a goal of having a Carnegie Library and began a resilient letter-writing campaign for Andrew Carnegie.

The letter campaign paid off when, with assurances of support from the City of Belton, a Carnegie grant was awarded.

In 1905, when the Carnegie Library opened at 201 North Main Street it had 1,500 books.

In 1975, the library moved to a new building at 301 East 1st Avenue and changed its name to the Belton Public Library. Miss Lee retired in 1924 and was replaced by Miss Louie C. Meyer.

In 1933, the Library Board petitioned the Belton City Council to take over the operations of the library, and the library became part of the city.

In 1946, Miss Meyer retired and was replaced by Miss Lena Armstrong, who served the library for 53 years before retiring in 1998.

After her passing in 1999, the library was renamed the Lena Armstrong Public Library due to the deep love and respect the people of Belton had for Lena Armstrong.

“One of the unique things about our children’s selections is that is larger than the adult section. It is exciting to see all the children reading. Every year we receive BISD kids on field trips. I enjoy the older residents who come in. We have kept the history collected by Bernita Peeples. She collected this for the library. There is a plan for a preschool playground here at the library. It will have a gate to make it safe for children. It is exciting to see all the positive things going on here,” Kroll added.

The library has electronic books and audiobooks. There is a play table so children can use with their hands in active play.

Friends of the Belton Library have been major supporters of the Lena Armstrong Library over the years. They have raised over $50,000 to pay for free books for children.

At a book sale at one of the elementary schools in Belton, the mother of a child had only money for one book. Kroll received a call asking if they had any extra books for the child. She made sure the child in question received a bag full of books.

“He carried that bag of books around all day, according to the teacher. The teacher got to see the joy when the child realized they got to keep the books,” said Kroll when asked about her favorite story.

To put it all in perspective about the age of the Lena Armstrong Library, it is older than man-made flight which began in 1903. Neither world war had been fought yet. The automobile had been invented but not widely used. Teddy Roosevelt was yet to be elected President of the United States.