The Arlington Public Library system consists of seven branches scattered throughout the city. The highlight is the downtown branch, named after George W. Hawkes. More about him in a moment.
The three-story library is located in the heart of Arlington and in City Center Plaza. It offers approximately 200,000 print and electronic items. Each floor has distinctive features and amenities.
Let’s visit the Downtown Arlington library.
The first floor is mostly for kids. There’s the DISCOVER Wall — known as an “interactive art installation.” Each letter allows kids to let their imagination lead the way. Nearby, kids can also read, play games, or explore the world through their eyes.
Also on the first floor is the Automatic Book Return and Sorter. This machine takes its job seriously! It checks in books and automatically sorts them into the correct bin for reshelving. You can watch it in action.
The makerspace is a fun and hands-on area of the library. Arts and crafts meet technology. While here, you can tinker, innovate, and create. Sewing machines, embroidery machines, vinyl cutters, tools, and even 3D printers are available. The library staff is available for training, in addition to offering special events and classes.
There’s also a dedicated area for teens and a section of books in various languages.
Another feature is the “Arlington Reads” program for adult education. It has a classroom and a place to study. Tutors are available to help with various subjects, including G.E.D. test prep, English as a Second Language, and U.S. Citizenship tests.
The Sun Club Garden is an outdoor space located on the third floor. (It’s on the roof of the second floor.) It’s a rooftop garden that offers a view of downtown Arlington. The view is somewhat limited but worth a peek. You can see Cowboys Stadium, the historic Vandergriff Building, the old T & P railroad tracks, City Center Plaza, and Center Street. The hustle and bustle of downtown — or sometimes the slower, small-town feel — is right below you. There are tables and chairs to use and a slatted roof that allows in the sunshine.
For me, the jewel of the downtown branch is the room dedicated to Genealogy and Local History. They have information about the local area, Texas, and regional history — truly some unique items!
Highlights include –
- City maps
- City documents
- City directories
- Microfilm and digital readers
- Access to genealogy and history databases
- Hundreds of reference books containing census indexes, marriage records, death records, and more
There are also filing cabinets with local history stories — newspaper clippings, typed letters, and old photos developed from rolls of film.
The yearbooks are fun to look at. I actually found my parents in them!
They also have a large scrapbook of the Arlington Citizen-Journal newspaper. The earliest edition goes back to July 1, 1957! This isn’t a copy of the newspaper; it’s the actual newspaper. Some of the pages are yellowed and starting to deteriorate, but, incredibly, it’s still in decent shape. You can read through the paper and see the articles, ads, and announcements.
Many other items are on display. They have a unique collection, with many rare and irreplaceable items.
Throughout the library, there are various places to sit, read, study, and relax. Whether it’s a table, booth, perch, or private study room, comfort and flexibility are intertwined. Large windows allow in natural light. The different floors are unique and carefully planned out. You can take the elevator, but the stairs are steep and can be a heck of a workout!
The downtown library offers something for everyone. It’s a valuable resource for the community and truly the centerpiece of Arlington’s public library system. Its central location allows the community to enjoy it. It has some fun amenities that could complement a night on the town or a weekend adventure.
While in the area, check out City Center Plaza, Arlington Museum of Art, Arlington Music Hall, Vandergriff Town Center, or Levitt Pavilion. This area is a very walkable (and historical!) part of Downtown Arlington.
George W. Hawkes Downtown Library
100 S. Center Street
Arlington, TX 76010
About George W. Hawkes (1916 – 2004)
Mr. Hawkes started his newspaper career in high school. He came to Arlington in the mid-1940s and soon bought the Arlington Citizen newspaper. In 1957, he merged it with the Arlington Journal newspaper, forming the Arlington Citizen-Journal. Even after selling majority ownership of the newspaper in 1964, the new owners kept him on as a publisher.
He had a significant impact on local journalism and later served as president of the Texas Press Association during 1969-1970.
Mr. Hawkes died in 2004 at the age of 87. In 2017, he was posthumously selected to the Texas Newspaper Hall of Fame.
With decades in the newspaper business, it’s fitting to have a library branch named after him.
Arlington Public Library, “George W. Hawkes Downtown Library,” City of Arlington Public Library official website, accessed January 21, 2021, https://www.arlingtonlibrary.org/about/Downtown-Library
City of Arlington, Texas, “George W. Hawkes Central Library,” City of Arlington, Texas official website, accessed January 21, 2021, https://www.arlingtontx.gov/residents/about_arlington/history_of_arlington/what_s_in_the_name_/george_w_hawkes_central_library
Texas Newspaper Foundation, “George W. Hawkes,” Texas Newspaper Foundation official website, accessed January 21, 2021, https://www.tnf.net/george-hawkes
Post and photos by Jason S. Sullivan, 01-23-21