Speer Memorial Library Mission, Texas

About the Library

Our New Facility

Click on the clock to see a pictorial time line of events:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who are the architect and builder for the expansion?

    TAG International, L.L.P. is the architect and Velasco Construction is the builder. Bruce Jackson is the project manager at TAG who is overseeing the library expansion and Joe Arredondo is the site manager for Velasco.

  2. How big is the expansion?

    The addition is approximately 30,100 square feet. When the expansion is finished the library will total approximately 48,760 square feet.

  3. Will you be renovating the current library and getting new furniture?

    Phase II of the project involves renovating the existing library. We have requested new furniture for the existing building as well as for the expansion.

  4. Will you be getting more staff?

    We have requested additional staff from City Hall and City Council.

  5. Where did the Butterfly Garden go?

    To accommodate the library expansion, the butterfly garden was relocated to the North side of the Parks & Recreation building. There is a second garden near City Hall.

  6. When will construction be finished?

    The expansion is currently scheduled to be finished sometime in March of 2005. The renovation of the existing library will be completed sometime after that.

  7. The Mayor was quoted in the paper as saying he hoped to have satellite libraries in other parts of the city, where will those be located?

    We have not begun any planning for future branches at this time.

  8. Can I look at the construction plans?

    Mayra Rocha, the Library Director, has a copy of the plans available for viewing. Please contact her at 580-8755 to make an appointment to look at them. You may also wish to look at a copy of our floor plan for the new library (please note that this image is very large).

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Library Staff

Mayra Rocha, SML DirectorMayra Rocha, Library Director

We have 31 staff members to run our 48,760 sq ft facility.

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History of the Library

In the Beginning...

Speer Memorial Library The Mission Public Library is one of the oldest libraries in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  It was organized by a group of educated, ambitious women who had come as settlers to this new country with their families.
     In March 1914, interested persons met and formed the Civic League of Mission in order to care for the park and to form a library.  The first library board was composed of the officers of the League.
     There were two card clubs in Mission at this time and one played for books which were donated to the library.  Two local women also donated 75 books to the library.
     The library was located wherever there was a room available free of charge.  Many empty stores were used. 
     At first the library charged for services!  $0.05 per hour for "story-telling" on Saturday mornings ...$0.05/week to borrow a book...and overdues ran $0.03/day.  The money went to run the library.
     In 1929 Mission passed a city ordinance making the library a city department, with appropriations of $0.03/$100 valuation of taxable property.  The sum reaching the library that year was about $50.00!
     In 1930 the library was in a room over the First National Bank...later it moved to City Hall.
     From the early 30's until 1947 the Public Library shared facilities with the School Library... when the books were divided.
     By 1960 the library had 11,741 books and had outgrown its building.
From the 1960's to the 2000's is a big jump and to fully understand it there are two Questions that we must Answer...the first one is "What is the Relationship between Morton Downey-the Singer and Morton Downey-the Cat?", ...and the second question is "What is the Relationship between Morton Downey-the Cat and the Speer Memorial Library?"     

CatMorton Downey - The Cat
by Florence Ward Barton

You will tread the pavement softly as you approach the Speer Memorial Library in Mission, if you are a cat lover.  You will pause beside the anacua tree guarding a plot of blooms beneath its spreading branches and there catch a glimpse of a small white marker bearing the name Morton Downey and the date January 19th 1964. So fleeting is fame that few recall Downey, the silver-voiced radio-crooner of the Forties who died at age 85 this past October... Morton Downey-the Singer died in his native Wallingford, Connecticut on October 25th, 1985. Many loved him and many a cup of morning coffee was sweetened by his liquid notes.
     Mr. and Mrs. George Speer of Mission loved this Irish tenor and they loved as well the adorable kitty that frolicked into their lives one April morning.  The Speers named the kitten Morton Downey, perhaps feeling the pet deserved the name for his dulcet tones.
     When Kitty Morton Downey died, his small body was buried with many tears in a sunny field owned by the Speer family.  An anacua tree was planted to shade the tiny grave.
     Years went by and the town of Mission grew.  The gentle couple who had loved the Morton Downeys passed away, leaving one daughter. She too had loved Kitty Morton Downey.
     The tree grew above Kitty Downey's grave, grew and spread its branches as though aware it had a duty to perform.  Wild flowers filled the field.  And there was peace.
     Then came a real estate agent.  "Would the couple's daughter sell the field?"
     Yes, but with one stipulation.  "Morton Downey's grave must never be disturbed."
     There was no sale.
     Then came the City of Mission. "The City needs a place to build a library.  Would the daughter sell the field?
     The daughter did not sell.  Instead... She PRESENTED the city of Mission with the flower-filled field but with the same stipulation... that Morton Downey's grave must never be disturbed ... and ... the  Speer Memorial Library became a reality.
     Now Kitty Morton Downey will sleep, undisturbed, under the spreading anacua tree for years and years to come.
     Yes,... In 1976, Juanita Speer Farley, as a memorial to her parents, gave the people of Mission the deed to her inherited property, two acres on 12th Street which her father, George, had acquired when he first came to Mission.  In 1976-77 (officially June 1, 1977) the new library complex drawn up by Mission Architect Warren Suter was completed and the library's 14,000 square foot building acquired its name.

Library Directors

Mrs. Bernice Baker was librarian-in-charge at the time of the 1977 dedication. Mrs. Baker was followed by Maria Herrera in 1978, Lily Torrez in 1982, and Diane Chladil in 1986. In 1988 addition brought the library's sq. ft. to 18,660. Margaret Handrow was made librarian in 1989, Rusty Dove in December 1990 and Mayra Rocha in September 2009.


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