The Early Days
The history of the public library in Kingsville is inextricably interwoven with that of the Woman's Club. Both began on February 23, 1909, when Mrs. James I. Toner (later Mrs. John D. Finnegan) called together a group of nine women to organize a woman's club with the major objective of establishing a free public library. The first meeting was a "book shower and tea" where 28 books, one dictionary, and $55.00 in cash were donated. On the following morning, the library opened in the Gulf Coast Record office with Mrs. Toner acting as part time librarian.
During the next 18 years the public library moved to a variety of temporary quarters. By September, 1909, the club had grown to fifteen members and they obtained a rent-free room over the Kleberg Bank. The members of the club contributed 25 cents a month for the operation of the library and volunteered as librarians. The library was open from 9-11 am and 2-5 pm five days a week. It was soon forced to move to a partitioned off section at one end of the fire station. As the club grew, it increased its contribution to the library by raising membership dues, and holding a Lyceum (an organization that presents public lectures) Course in 1915-1916 to obtain additional funding. In 1917 the library moved again, this time to the general office building of what became the Missouri Pacific Railroad. It remained open from 2-6 pm six days a week, and hired the first full-time librarian for the salary of $15.00 a month. An increase in railroad business forced the library to vacate the railroad office and move temporarily to the Commercial Club in March, 1925. Representatives of the Woman's Club met with the board of directors of the Commercial Club and members of the City Commission to obtain a small space (12 feet by 18 feet) in the new City Hall. The discussion apparently included the possibility of constructing a building specifically for the library.
The public library moved into the City Hall in August, 1925, and invited the students and faculty of the newly opened South Texas Teachers College to use its resources. Mrs. John D. Finnegan, chairman of the Library Committee of the Woman's Club, was proud of the growth of the library and of the good literature provided for the community. The committee was "particularly anxious to raise the standard of reading for our young people."