The Lena Armstrong Public Library has served the community of Belton since 1899. The Library has occupied four locations, been called by four names, and employed five Head Librarians.
The Library began as the Woman’s Wednesday Club Library located in a room at the Central Hotel owned by the Sanctificationists. This group, also known as the Women’s Commonwealth, was established in 1867 when Martha McWhirter had a religious conversion which led her “to live a celibate life dedicated to helping others”.
The group consisted mainly of women and their children, and as the first women’s movement in Central Texas, they offered shelter to women in abusive relationships. The group also owned and operated the Central Hotel which brought economic growth to the community of Belton.
This first Library was filled with books donated by the members of the Woman’s Wednesday Club.
When the books threatened to overrun the room at the hotel, space was rented in the Harris & Walker building on Main Street.
Miss Emma A. Lee was hired as the Librarian and the Library was open in the afternoons. The members of the Wednesday Club began to pursue the notion of having a Carnegie Library and began a persistent letter writing campaign to Andrew Carnegie, who wrote a personnel check for $10,000.
In 1905, the Carnegie Library opened at 201 North Main Street and Miss Lee moved in with 1,500 books. The Library would stay in the Carnegie building for 70 years. In 1975 the Library moved to a new building at 301 East 1st Avenue and became the Belton Public Library.
Building a Legacy
Miss Lee, the first Head Librarian retired in 1924 and Miss Loulie C. Meyer became the Librarian of the Carnegie Library.
In 1933, the Library became part of the City government, and Miss Meyer was appointed Librarian. In 1946, Miss Meyer retired and was replaced by Miss Lena Armstrong, who served the Library for the next 52 years.
During her tenure, Miss Armstrong built an impressive genealogy collection and compiled a large collection of family and local history. She was also a contributing author for The Story of Bell County, collected over 3,300 photos of Central Texas, and was an avid collector of local fossils.
Miss Armstrong helped many children learn to read and appreciate the Library. She encouraged children of all races and status to use the Library and be comfortable there at a time when this was not a popular notion.
In December of 1998, Miss Armstrong retired. For her service to the community and because of the deep love and respect the people of Belton had for her, the Library was renamed the Lena Armstrong Public Library in December of 1998. Miss Armstrong died in January of 1999.
In May of 1999, the Library celebrated its 100th anniversary. Kim Adele Kroll was appointed Librarian in October of 2000.
Currently the Library has 24,000 items including 2,814 genealogy texts. The Library still maintains and adds to Lena Armstrong’s files on Belton and Bell County, as well as family histories.