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Marfa Public Library

Who We Are

Our Mission

The Marfa Public Library will provide members of and visitors to the community a relevant and diverse collection in a variety of formats. The Marfa Public Library will promote lifelong learning in the community through outreach projects and collaborations with other civic organizations in an atmosphere that promotes literacy, fosters exploration and the free exchange of ideas, and provides opportunities to engage with others.

Our History

The Marfa Public Library began in 1947 when the Marfa Lions Club and the Marfa Study Club agreed to establish a library for the citizens of the area. E.K. Beanland, a local businessman, headed the Lions Club. His wife, Mary Livingston Beanland, was president of the Study Club. Housed in the historic U.S.O. building, the books were donated by local residents. For the first eight months, volunteers were in charge of the fledgling operation.

When the need for further help became evident, the City took over the project, moving the library to a city owned building and hiring a full time librarian. After being operated for nearly 20 years by the City of Marfa, the library began negotiations to organize and operate in a manner meeting the requirements of state and federal guidelines.

At that time the library was a popular service institution for Marfa and the surrounding ranch area, but it lacked a great deal in its ability to provide the needs of a growing public. The then city administration consisted of Mayor Clyde McFarland and two commissioners, Noland Kelley and Dr. W.W. Gentry. They, along with one librarian, Mrs. Glen Adams, had sole responsibility for the library. There was no set budget. There was an allowance of $120 for the purchase of books. There were no rules or regulations and no affiliation with state or institutes of higher learning.

Interested citizens recognized these inadequacies in 1966 and realized the potential of the library. They presented their concerns to the commission. The commission, in turn, appointed Mrs. Bishop L. (Laura) Bailey Sr. as the first chairman of the Board of Trustees for the library. She was given the responsibility of naming additional trustees. With the encouragement and support of the Texas State Library and other established libraries in the surrounding area, the Marfa Board of Trustees soon had policies, job descriptions, and a proposed budget prepared for commission acceptance. A charter was obtained and by-laws were approved.

Mrs. Frank (Lynn) Gervasi, a former librarian for the New York City Library, introduced the Dewey Decimal system to the Marfa Library. Upon meeting the requirements of the Texas State Library, the Marfa library became a member of the Texas Trans-Pecos Library System. A Friends of the Marfa Library group was organized with Mary Davis serving as president. Through the efforts of the Friends group, many successful fundraising events have taken place over the years. The Friends of the Library not only help financially, but have sponsored many programs, such as the Summer Reading Program, throughout the years.

The present library building was donated to the City of Marfa in 1973 by the first chairperson, Laura Bailey, and her husband Bishop. Continued growth and increased demands for more services made expansion of this building necessary. It has recently undergone extensive renovation. In 2019, after many years of dedication, the library further expanded, developing a public courtyard and community meeting area.