Mayor Sylvester Turner announced today the Central Library Plaza will be named Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza in honor of the former first lady.  The mayor also announced the start of a $5.5 million fundraising campaign to pay for renovation of the plaza.

“This will elevate the importance of literacy and serve as a reminder of what one person can do with a lifetime of commitment to a cause.,” said Mayor Turner. “Barbara Bush has dedicated her life to public service, and after leaving the White House in 1989, she focused on her passion for literacy.  This exceptional hometown hero has not sought out public notoriety; however, she deserves a public space to honor her significant achievements. Literacy is the cornerstone to being successful, and a community with a high literacy rate also has high productivity and even higher incomes.  That is the future for Houston.”

Currently, the Library Plaza is the gateway to the Central Library and the historic Julia Ideson Building. Over 650,000 library patrons pass through the Plaza to access library services, and hundreds of thousands visit the Plaza during downtown events, such as charity walks, parades, festivals, outdoor exhibitions, and city occasions.  That useful space will be transformed and will become a destination in its own right, a destination that focuses on Houston’s commitment to literacy.

Although the City of Houston offered this honor to Mrs. Bush without any request for compensation, Neil Bush announced a $500,000 donation to the project from his parents, President H. W. Bush and Mrs. Barbara Bush.  “My mother has championed the cause of literacy for much of her philanthropic life. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful to the leaders of Houston for honoring and preserving her legacy in such a special way through the Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza.”

Phillips 66 and the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation each also announced $500,000 gifts in support of the Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza.

“Phillips 66 is proud to support the Houston Public Library Foundation and is excited about the opportunities that will come with the new Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza in downtown Houston.  We recognize that instilling a love of reading at an early age sets the stage for advancement, and therefore, investing in literacy is an investment in our shared future and in developing tomorrow’s leaders,” said Claudia Kreisle, Director of Philanthropy, Phillips 66.

Licia Green-Ellis, the Houston Public Library Foundation’s chairperson added, “Mrs. Barbara Bush’s name is synonymous with literacy.  We are excited to provide a physical focal point for literacy in Houston and honor a woman who has dedicated a lifetime to this cause.  The Plaza is a small token for the incredible impact Mrs. Bush has had on Houston, the United States, and even the world.”

The announcement kicked off the second and final phase of the Plaza’s reconstruction.  The $5.5 million campaign will transform the plaza into a welcoming space that extends the library’s mission outside of its physical walls and into the outdoors.  The construction will create two reading gardens, one for children and another for adults, a café bistro with seating under shade trees, a jumbo viewing screen for public movies and other visual events, and an art lawn that can host thought-provoking exhibits.

For additional information, visit

Leave a comment