The founder of the Public School System in Brownsville, also founded the Public Library System in the city. A collection that moved from place to place until it finally found a home.
Today it’s part of the Brownsville Fire Department, but nearly one hundred years ago, it was the product of years of hard work and dedication from a group of people who wanted the city to grow and learn.
As Brownsville moved into the 19th century, the only library available was from the business office of a pioneer in Brownsville and South Texas history.
“We go back just to the turn of the century 1895 or so the only library that Brownsville had was the personal library of Captain William Kelly, a steam boat captain in Brownsville,” said Eugene Fernandez, Commissioner of the Cameron County Historical Commission.
But as years passed, a group of women, known as the Learner’s Club, believed the city needed more. So they went on a mission to establish a public library for Brownsville.
Which resulted in a home in 1910 in the Stegman building for six years, when it moved to the Brownsville Herald Building, and then to Market Square, until it finally found its own location, a stand-alone library located on East Adams and 10th street.
The library remained there until 1954, when Jacob Brown Auditorium Complex opened, and a space was created in the name of “The Zachary Taylor Library, and then the Arnulfo Oliveira Memorial Library at Texas Southmost College.
Today, the city’s public library is now in two expansive locations, where residents can seek out the information and education they need.
“It’s a collection of knowledge of humanity so you can see why Brownsville throughout all of this evolutionary process was bent upon having a library to serve its public,” Fernandez said.
The Learners Club still exists and continues to support the Brownsville Public Library System by donating funds, books and historical maps.