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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
August 14, 2007
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at the Westbank Community Library's Announcement of the Laura Bush Community Library
Westbank Community Library
10:00 A.M. CDT
MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much, Susan. Thank you so much, Beth. I want to recognize Lieutenant Governor, David Dewhurst. Thank you, Governor, for joining us today. James Bannerot, who is the President of the Westbank Community Library board of trustees; Pat Smith, who is the Executive Director of the Texas Library Association. Pat does a really terrific job. The Texas Library Association is the largest of the state library associations. It's very active. They've always been very supportive of the Texas Book Festival and of every sort of literacy project in our state. And I want to thank you very much for that, Pat.
Scott Strehli, who is the Executive Vice President of Texas Research International, who are the ones that, as Beth already said, donated the new property, which is going to be terrific. And, of course, Beth Fox. Nothing would be here if it weren't for Beth Fox. (Applause.)
A great library always has a great library director. And she's the visionary that really started it all. So thank you very much, Beth, for everything you've done.
And I want to thank everyone here for this wonderful honor. I can't imagine anything better than having a library named for me or named for someone.
Libraries have been a part of my life for my whole life, since my mother first took me to the Midland Public Library when I was a child. Then, the Midland Public Library was in the basement of the Midland County Courthouse. And of course, the Midland County Courthouse in the square, the courthouse square, was the most important building in town. And so the signal to me, as a little girl, was that the library was in the very center of the community, and the library was the most important building in Midland.
And I think that's still what happens, and I want to thank everyone here at the Westbank Library for making this library be the center of the community.
So you can imagine how thrilled I am to have a library named for me. I've loved libraries since those days in Midland. I've loved being a part of this library, the Westbank Community Library, since our days in Austin, when George was governor. I'm impressed by how much local residents have invested in this library since 1983, when a group of 65 determined citizens began with a collection of donated books. Over the years, foundations, businesses, individual donors and hard-working volunteers have pitched in. Now the small community library that started in the upper floor of a bank building is about to start construction on its second branch. Congratulations to each and every one of you, and especially to you, Beth.
Every investment you've made in the Westbank Library has paid off. Circulation has gone from 34,000 checkouts in 1989 a year to more than 600,000 checkouts today. The average item on the Westbank shelves is borrowed more than seven times a year -- and that average was actually calculated before Harry Potter was just released. (Laughter.)
This new branch will allow even more people to be able to enjoy the Westbank Library's excellent resources -- and not just its collection of 60,000 books, which we expect to double with the opening of the new branch. But as one local family explains, the library is "the warm and comfortable heart of our community." The library is visited by more than 250,000 people every year, and it's served by more than 100 volunteers every week. Seventy percent of families in the Westbank Community Library District have an active library card. And I expect that that is a record, probably, in the United States. That's really terrific.
It's a central gathering place for people of all ages. As one 11-year-old patron observed: "I noticed a gray-haired senior citizen volunteering right alongside a green-haired teenager!" (Laughter.)
Beth Fox and the enthusiastic staff have made Westbank everything a library should be. The library supports the surrounding community -- including more than 30 low-income schools -- with donations of books. The library gives more than 10,000 books every year to the Reach Out and Read Program. Staff and volunteers are always ready with recommendations -- for parents looking to get their kids interested in books, or for avid readers looking for the next great author. From literature contests and discussion groups, to story time and game time for children, to the "Knit Wits" meetings for crafters, this library is a vibrant community center. As Beth will tell you, "We miss 'quiet library' by a country mile." (Laughter.)
These efforts are appreciated by Westbank's patrons. One elderly gentleman who had just lost his wife was convinced by a staff member to volunteer. "I met a whole new group of friends," this man told a librarian. "You saved my life." A teenage patron came to the library late one night, just at closing. "He needed a book for his report due the next day," one Westbank librarian remembers. "At first I said we were closed and couldn't help him, but he looked so despondent," she said, "I let him in and we found the book. He left happy." When the student returned the book, he included a thank-you note for the librarian, which ended with, "Never stop having a big heart."
People throughout the district have opened their hearts to add this new branch of the Westbank Community Library. From retirees to swim teams to scout troops, everyone supports this effort. Thanks especially to the Texas Research International for donating this beautiful 10-acre site on Cuernavaca, where the new, environmentally sustainable Laura Bush Community Library will be built.
Thanks to each one of you for your dedication to this community, and for your love for good books. In fact, this reminds me to encourage all of the book-lovers here to attend the Texas Book Festival, which will take place at the State Capitol on November 3rd and 4th. And if you just happen to be in Washington, stop by the National Book Festival on Saturday, September 29th, at the National Mall. And bring your family and friends to these great events.
I know you'll bring your family and friends to the Laura Bush Community Library. I'm proud of all the hard work you've done to make this new branch happen. And I'm honored that the result of this hard work -- the new Westbank Community Library building branch -- will be named for me.
Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)