Too cool for school

Michelle Cervantes, our Round Rock Library Director, pens a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader. This is a repost of her most recent feature.

Michelle Cervantes Library Director

Michelle Cervantes
Library Director

The past few months have been heated. Not just due to the hot weather, but because of politics, racism, strife, culture clash and loss.

Let’s get back on track and focus on something cool, like back to school.

Yes, you heard me right. I said school is cool. I learned this fact late in life, and I believe if I had known that back in the day, then my life would have been a whole lot easier.

Are you too cool for school? Well, we have options for you that offer non-traditional learning opportunities. Learning goes beyond a classroom and continuous improvement goes hand-in-hand with success. You should not stop learning or seeking knowledge just because you receive a diploma.

The first step is getting a library card. September is officially Library Card Sign-Up Month. All you need to do is bring your valid Texas issued identification with a current address, and we can set you up in a few minutes. Your library membership provides you with access to more than 180,000 items and 92 online digital resources.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is launching two new databases (online digital resources) this month. Soon you will be able to log into Pronunciator and Flipster.

Pronunciator teaches practical language skills through listening, speaking, reading, writing, grammar and culture. Courses for 80 languages are available, with up to 22 months of guided instruction per language. Pronunciator also provides citizenship preparation courses in English and Spanish with all these features available for Apple, Android and Kindle Fire devices.

Flipster is the next-generation digital magazine providing libraries with access to magazines in a digital format. We currently subscribe to Mango Languages and Zinio magazines and look forward to comparing them to Pronunciator and Flipster. Let us know what you think.

Along with the thousands of items we have available for continuing education, we also host a variety of free classes. This week we have a small business workshop, A+ certification course, English-as-a-Second-Language classes, health and wellness class and financial literacy workshop. Visit our web calendar for complete details:

How big a slice of your pie do City taxes take?

Our finance folks have put together a great infographic to answer that question.

Avg Household Monthly Expenses

We think this chart offers some nice perspective. So while the owner of an average value home will see their City taxes go up by a little over $6 a month (check out this helpful Budget Highlights document for details), we think we deliver good value for your dollar.

The City Council will make its second and final reading vote on the budget and tax rate at its Thursday, Sep. 8, meeting.

For a high-level look at the budget, we think this video might CATch your fancy. (Ahem.)

Great quality of life? Yep, Round Rock’s got you covered!

Quality of Life RRTX Web

When your community is filled with family-friendly fun, delicious dining, destination shopping, exciting sports, great neighborhoods, impeccable parks, A+ schools and so, so much more, it’s not too surprising to see it end up on all sorts of great rankings.

And although we aren’t surprised, we’re still a little giddy to see Round Rock listed as one of Business Insider’s top 25 cities with the best quality of life in the US.

Coming in at No. 10, and edging out our high-profile neighbor to the south (hint: “Live Music Capital of the World”), Round Rock is one of two Texas cities to crack the top ten and one of seven to make the list. Others Texans include Denton (25), The Woodlands (24), Irving (21), Richardson (19), Austin (18) and Plano (3).

Here are the top 10:

  1. Bellevue, Washington
  2. Alexandria, Virginia
  3. Plano, Texas
  4. Overland Park, Kansas
  5. Sunnyvale, California
  6. Ann Arbor, Michigan
  7. Naperville, Illinois
  8. Cambridge, Massachusetts
  9. Fort Collins, Colorado
  10. Round Rock, Texas

So, how’d Business Insider come up with these high-falutin rankings anyway? Well, they compiled data collected by Niche for their latest Places to Live rankings, including “Safest Cities,” “Cities with the Best Job Opportunities,” “Healthiest Cities,” and “Best Cities to Raise a Family.” You can read the full methodology here.

And if all that’s not enough, or if you’ve just been hiding under a rock (potentially the one we’re named after) for the past few months, we compiled a gallery listing a few more accolades Round Rock has recently received:

Flying cars and libraries. The future includes both

Michelle Cervantes Library Director

Michelle Cervantes
Library Director

What will the library of tomorrow look like? Will libraries exist in the future?

I’ve been in the library business for over two decades, and I am still asked the question about the existence of libraries in the future. When I started working in a public library, it was at the same time that the Internet was becoming mainstream.

There was talk that the Internet would kill libraries and that everything would be accessible via the Internet. As with the prediction of flying cars, I am still waiting for this so-called end of libraries. But unlike flying cars — which, by the way, according to Forbes Magazine are supposed to go on sale next year — the end of libraries is nowhere in sight.

On the contrary, libraries are booming! From state-of-the-art academic libraries like the James B. Hunt Jr. Library on the North Carolina State University campus in Raleigh, N.C., to the BiblioTech, first digital public library in Bexar County, Texas, this is an exciting time for libraries and library users.

I recently had the privilege to visit the Hunt Library. This is an award-winning building and is considered by many to be “The Library of the Future.” It is impressive. The university invested $115 million and allocated 220,000 square feet of space for its second main campus library.

One feature that makes this library unique is the bookBot. When you walk in the front entrance, you will notice the vast lobby that includes an interactive exhibit hall. To the right, you can look through the ceiling-to-floor window that frames the library’s collection of books accessible by the bookBot, an automated robotic book delivery system that holds up to 2 million volumes in one-ninth the space of conventional shelving.

The rest of the library space is dedicated to group-study rooms and technology-equipped spaces that support and enable learning, research and collaboration. The top level of the library has open study space surrounded by windows with views of Lake Raleigh and the city skyline.

If you are ever in the Raleigh-Durham area, I highly recommend you stop by the Hunt Library and then have lunch at the Tupelo Honey Café.

I have yet to visit the BiblioTech Library, but I have been closely following the success of this project from the beginning and had the opportunity to meet the head librarian. This library and its staff have received worldwide recognition for the unconventional design, customer service philosophy and innovative programming.

BiblioTech was the brainchild of Bexar County Judge Nelson W. Wolff. After reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, Judge Wolff had a “Eureka!” moment. Something clicked, and he connected the needs of the community to creating the first all-digital library.

In an unprecedented move, a team took the idea and made it a reality in less than 12 months. BiblioTech opened on Sept. 14, 2013, welcoming in 1,100 patrons on its first day. Today, there are three locations to serve Bexar County residents.

What will tomorrow hold for the Round Rock Public Library? We are in the process of finding a location for the new main library and a branch library. With your help, we will design a library for Round Rock’s bright future.

Recommended Sci-Fi reads

What Michelle is reading now: “The Last Adventure of Constance Verity,” by A. Lee Martinez

Top 7 family-friendly activities before school starts

can-t-keep-calm-summer-s-almost-overThose of us with school-age kids have started the countdown. School starts Tuesday, Aug. 23, in the Round Rock ISD.

But summer’s not over yet!

Here’s a quick list of what you can do before that first bell rings.

  1. Hit one of the City’s pools. If you haven’t been to the expanded Rock’N River yet, what are you waiting for? Regular hours, noon to 7 p.m. (closed Wednesdays) end Aug. 21. Micki Krebsbach Pool closes for the season on Aug. 14.
  2. Enjoy more wet fun at the Library’s Splash Mob, set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8, at Prete Main Street Plaza.
  3. If movies are your thing, we’ve got you covered, again at Prete Main Street Plaza. Movies in the Park — this time with live music — is set for Aug. 3 (Tangled), Aug. 10 (Zootopia) and Aug. 17 (The Goonies).
  4. The Round Rock Express have a pair of home stands at Dell Diamond before school starts back up, Aug. 7-10, and Aug. 20-23.
  5. Sports not your thing? No problem. ArtSpace in Downtown Round Rock will feature an Artists Interpret Red exhibit in August.
  6. Just a few more opportunities to catch The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at the Sam Bass Theater, Aug. 4, 5, 11, 13.
  7. Last, but certainly not least, is the Car Show at Centennial Plaza on Sunday, Aug. 21.

Water, by the numbers

summer is here(Cue the sax for the Glenn Frey classic.)

The heat is on.

We’ve reached that point where we’re in the midst of our first consecutive triple-digit temperature days of the year. It happens every summer and when it does, we at the City think about water.

Numbers tell a lot of the water story, so let’s dip our toes into it with this:

  • Our highest water use day ever was Aug. 7, 2011, when we produced 42.05 million gallons
  • Our highest water use day this year was Wednesday, July 13, when we produced 30.6 million gallons

For those of you new to the area, 2010-2011 was the hottest, driest 12-month-period in Texas history.

The folks at our water treatment plant, who sweat these details for a living, note the impact of rainfall and temperature on water production.

  2011 2015
Rainfall (inches) 14.75 46.96
Days with temperature above 100 degrees 59 9
Annual Water Production (billions of gallons) 8.744 6.822
System Peak Day (millions of gallons) use 42.05 37.953


Other numbers you’ll want to familiarize yourself with are our block water rates. This time of year, the more water you use, the more expensive it gets.

Inclined Block Water Rates Chart_2016_1-13-16

Wondering what you can do to stay out of those upper tiers? Jessica Woods, our water conservation specialist, teamed up with Multimedia Specialist Brian Ligon (of Ron Pitchman fame) to create an award-winning series of Water Wise videos (15, to be exact) with plenty of helpful how-to’s.

Those some water conservation folks offer rebate programs to help you save even more water. Of course, we’ve got some numbers for you on this, too!

Toilet rebates are available to properties built prior to Jan. 1, 2006. We began the program in June 2010, and it has run off and on since then.

  • We’ve rebated a total of 1,003 people for 1,573 toilets
  • The average rebate is $77.85 per toilet
  • We estimate the new toilets result in about 4.7 million gallons of water saved annually!
  • $123,658.29 has been awarded in rebates since the start of this program.

Irrigation system upgrade rebates were implemented in June 2010. We haven’t had a ton of participation, simply because not everyone owns a sprinkler system and not everyone can afford to make upgrades. It’s also the program that’s the most involved (aka complicated).

  • To date have had 197 participants. Average rebate amount is $256.31. It’s hard to accurately estimate water savings.
  • This year has had the highest participation, with the majority of participants upgrading their irrigation system controller to weather-based controllers that automatically adjust their settings based on local weather conditions.
  • $47,094.70 has been awarded in rebates

Clothes washers account for 22 percent of water used in homes. We started this rebate program in December 2012.

  • So far, 291 new washers rebated
  • Average rebate is $81.70
  • Assuming the new efficient washer is replacing an old front-loading washer (and not another efficient washer), we estimate an annual water savings of 3.4 million to 3.9 million gallons of water a year! (Or 12,000-13,500 gallons per washer annually)
  • $23,775 has been awarded since the start of the program.

Rain Water Harvesting is a nice way to use what Mother Nature provides when it does rain, and folks do seem to love this program.

  • We have had 233 participants collecting a total of 61,267 gallons of water with each rain event!
  • The City has hosted six rain barrel sales the past four years, with 1,800 barrels sold. Not all of those who purchased barrels live in Round Rock, so we don’t have a big water savings number for this. Barrel capacity amounts range from 50 gallons to 200 gallons.
  • $20,881 has been awarded in rebates

Lawn Aeration promotes deeper root growth and helps reduce water runoff, both which help reducing the amount of water used on landscapes.

  • Super popular program with 412 participants in the first year!
  • $18,934 has been rebated since the start of the program.

Last, but certainly not least, we’ve got the numbers for the Irrigation System Evaluations that Jessica started on Aug. 7, 2009, shortly after she was hired.

  • She’s conducted a total of 767 evaluations on 842 controllers. (Some places have more than one controller). Seventy-five of those controllers were at non-residential properties.
  • If everyone she’s evaluated followed her recommendations on their watering schedule, we (the City) would save approximately 7.8 million gallons per month during the watering season! There’s a lot of overwatering happening.
  • Average reduction is 10,586 gallons per month per her recommendation
  • Biggest problem Jessica sees is overwatering of native plants, with people watering them just as much or even more than turf grass. Native plants can handle much less water, or even no water, compared to grass.

And if you’re a fan of blog posts (if you’re still reading this deep, you surely are!) be sure to keep up with The Water Spot, another great way Jessica helps us all with Round Rock’s No. 1 priority this time of year.


10 ways to enjoy the arts in Round Rock this summer!

Free arts and cultural events in July! The arts are happening everywhere in Round Rock this summer, and with this list, you’re sure not to miss a second of the action!

1. Take an early morning or evening stroll through the thirty-plus art sculptures located at Prete Plaza, Downtown, Centennial Plaza and Chisholm Crossing. Brochures are available at ArtSpace or at City Hall front desk.

art collage

2. Have dinner in Downtown Round Rock and then go see the Penfold Theatre presentation of Shakespeare’s COMEDY OF ERRORS at Centennial Plaza’s Amphitheater. This under-the-stars theater event takes place Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. the entire month of July!

play collage

3. Wander over to Memorial Park and the Sam Bass Community Theatre presentation of INTO THE WOODS AND SWEENEY TODD, Junior Editions. Join the fun on Thursday, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday Matinees at 2:00 p.m. Details:

sam bass memorial play summer

4. Beat the heat and stay inside while taking in some big art! Round Rock Arts presents The Big Show art exhibition that is now on display through August 25 at Texas State University Round Rock Campus, 1555 University in Round Rock.

big show

5. Find The Little Show at ArtSpace, downtown’s art gallery at 231 East Main, Suite 160, in Round Rock. ArtSpace celebrates in conjunction with THE BIG SHOW of their own exhibit called THE LITTLE SHOW for the month of July.

little show collage

6. Round Rock Public Library has an art gallery! When picking out your favorite book to read for their summer reading program, stop by the art gallery and view the current art exhibit. 

read get set

7. Art using Alcohol Ink at the Williamson County Jester Annex, another free art exhibition of wonderful artists works. Just because you’re not renewing your car registration doesn’t mean you can’t check out this great little exhibit! Check it out at 1801 Old Settlers Boulevard in Round Rock.

alc ink collage

8. Visit the Palm House Museum (beside the Round Rock Public Library) at 212 East Main in Round Rock for a little art history! The Palm House, the oldest building on Main Street, was moved to this location in 1976 from the Palm Valley area. The house is a well-preserved example of an early frontier building style: a central door and entry passage with one roughly square room on either side. The porch runs the length of the house and the roof is steeply pitched.  This historic house displays two furnished rooms of the 1873 home of Swedish immigrant Andrew Palm. The house was moved here from the Swedish Palm Valley settlement east of town.

palm house collage

9. If you’re still strolling, walk by the Nelson-Crier House (Woodbine Mansion) located at 405 E. Main Street in Round Rock. It was built 1895-1900 and remodeled 1931. This house is probably the most interesting house in Round Rock. The building originally was in a Queen Anne style with a three-story turret at the northeast corner, but was later remodeled to a neoclassical style with an Ionic-columned porch. The foundation of the turret remains as a large patio.

nelson house collage

10. Finally, for a little history and culture: Visit the Round Rock Cemetery.  Established in the early 1850s in what is now known as Old Round Rock, this cemetery is the burial ground of many area pioneers and outstanding Round Rock citizens. The oldest legible tombstone, which marks the burial site of 11-year-old Angeline Scott, bears the year 1851, although there are many unmarked graves that could date from before that time.

cemetary collage


Round Rock named one of the best cities for Texas families

Photo Credit: Rock Studios

From great parks to out-of-this-world events to that hometown feeling you just don’t get everywhere you go, it’s no wonder Wallet Hub ranked Round Rock as one of the best cities in Texas to raise a family. Twenty-third best to be exact.

Sure, we’re not number one, but that doesn’t mean this ranking isn’t still exciting. It means we’re doing the right things but we’ve still got room to improve. We like that! After all, we’re the type of community that isn’t pretentious, holds true to its roots, takes time to make the best decisions for residents and is always working to make our future even better than our past. And because of all that, we’re confident the road to greater success is wide and open here in Round Rock – a place where folks can raise a family, enjoy an afternoon in nature and head out for a little nightlife to cap off a wonderful weekend.

We think our hometown is pretty darn great and we’re ecstatic others think so, too, but enough with all our preaching. You get the idea… Round Rock, rocks!

So, how’d the data folks at Wallet Hub come up with this ranking? Well, they compared 112 of the largest cities in Texas based on twenty-one relevant metrics that speak to their suitability for families of all types, including measures such as the number of playgrounds per capita, the violent crime rate and the divorce rate.

Still interested in more details? Chompin’ at the bit to see the full ranking? You can find it all right here:

Top four reasons to Stop the Pop

fireworks infographicEach July 4th, thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks.

Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks — devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death… just a few of the many reasons they’re illegal to possess or use here in Round Rock!

The Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks is a group of health and safety organizations, coordinated by National Fire Protection Association, that urges the public to avoid the use of consumer fireworks and instead, to enjoy displays of fireworks conducted by trained professionals.

Here are four facts to consider before you light up:

  1. From 2009-2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 18,500 fires caused by fireworks. These fires included 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and 16,900 outside and other fires. An estimated two people were killed in these fires.
  2. In 2014, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 10,500 people for fireworks related injuries; 51 percent of those injuries were to the extremities and 38 percent were to the head.
  3. The risk of fireworks injury is highest for young people ages 5-9, followed by children 10-19.
  4. More than one-quarter (28 percent) of fires started by fireworks in 2009-2013 were reported on July 4th. Almost half (47 percent) of the reported fires on the Fourth of July were started by fireworks.

And if you think you can find a City nearby where it’s legal to shoot fireworks, think again. Check out the video below.

Join us for a Trailgating Party in celebration of National Trails Day!

Walk.Ride.PlayWe’ve all seen pictures, and many of us experienced, the fun of tailgating before our favorite sports team takes the field. Food, friends and fun is what it’s all about!

This Saturday, June 4 from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at Freeman Park (301 Forest Ridge Blvd.), we’re bringing a little slice of that game day experience to Round Rock with a Trailgating Party to celebrate National Trails Day. No, there won’t be touchdowns or 2-point conversions, but we’ll have plenty of food and fun for the whole family!

From free t-shirts and water bottles to delicious food, great games and even a few awesome giveaways, this is the perfect way to get outside and start your family’s weekend off right!

This event is also the start of our two month Trails Challenge, a self-guided tour of the Round Rock trail system that you can complete on your own schedule. Get it done by August 31 and you’ll be eligible to receive a prize!

Also, don’t forget to download our mobile app, which has a built-in trail finder! Perfect to get you moving toward discovering nature right at home here in Round Rock!

trails post collage