Julia Bedford Ideson was born July 15, 1880 in Hastings, Nebraska. She attended a convent school (Visitation Academy) studying academics and practical subjects (bookkeeping, typewriting and stenography) Her father owned a bookstore in Hastings and had a large personal library in their home.
The Ideson family moved to Houston in 1892. Julia attended public schools and graduated from Houston High School in 1899. In 1899 she entered University of Texas in Austin, originally was going to be a teacher, but discovered a new course of study in Library Science. In 1902 she completed her coursework in Library Science, and in 1903 she applied for position of librarian of Houston’s public library, then under construction. In her application she adds a postscript “I may add that I use the typewriter, as you probably know, a requisite of the modern librarian.”
Ms. Ideson was hired in October 1903 by the Houston Lyceum and Carnegie Library Association as librarian of the soon to be completed library. Originally she had one assistant, an errand boy and a janitor as her entire staff. She had to do all the cataloguing, plating, mending of books and ordering. The library opened on March 2, 1904 at the corner of Travis and McKinney with 10,000 volumes on the shelves.
Ms. Ideson was also very active outside of Houston. In 1919, she served in the overseas library service of the ALA during WWI at Camp Pontanezen near Brest, France. The building was a corrugated iron building with floors of rough boards and provided seating for 200 men. Ms. Ideson also set up a library for the soldiers during World War I stationed here in Houston at Camp Logan (Memorial Park).
Ms. Ideson was also greatly involved with the construction of the new Central Library which was completed in 1926. Built in just 17 months with a budget of $500,000—Ideson focused on a plan with natural light, cross ventilation, and flexible space. In fact, the hallway on the other side of her portrait was originally an open porch, or loggia, intended to catch the gulf breezes, but it was later enclosed.
This portrait of Julia Ideson was painted by local artist Julien Muench in 1934.