Event night photos by Danny Hurley Photography

More than 300 people packed the downtown library Thursday night to meet author Delia Owens and honor Kay Cattarulla at the annual Friends of the Dallas Public Library dinner.

Because of the appeal of the two special guests, the dinner was moved from its usual home at the library’s 7th-floor O'Hara Hall to a larger open space on the 6th floor, lending the banquet a special ambiance amidst the book stacks and reference tables.

The 6th-floor, fittingly, is about to undergo a major renovation, a capital campaign funded by the Friends. The 6th floor is the final floor of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library to be renovated in a project begun by Margaret McDermott in 1996 and championed by Don Stone for more than 20 years.

Library Director Jo Giudice welcomed the crowd with thanks for the Friends’ role in supporting the library’s many community-building activities. She had an especially long day, she noted because the downtown library opens early – and serves coffee and snacks – whenever temperatures outside dip into the 30s.

Mary Wilonsky, executive director of the Friends, presented the May Dickson Exall Award for contributions to Dallas’ literary and cultural life to Kay Cattarulla, who founded the popular Arts and Letters Live series and produced a documentary about theater pioneer Margo Jones, among her many achievements in Dallas.

Exall, who died in 1936, was instrumental in the establishment of both the Dallas Public Library and the Dallas Museum of Art.

In heartfelt, humorous remarks, Cattarulla noted that she moved here from New York in 1980 “for two or three years,” and was gratified by the warm response and immediate support of the Dallas community. She also announced that her documentary, Sweet Tornado, has been restored and will be streamed on the KERA website. In the audience was Margo Jones’ niece Judy, who came in from Houston for the dinner.

Follow this link to watch Sweet Tornado


In an engaging Q-and-A with former Dallas Morning News Vice President Keven Ann Willey, Delia Owens recounted her 23 years in Africa researching wildlife, battling poachers and writing three books about her experiences. Upon her return to America, Owens turned to fiction, and her first novel, Where the Crawdads Sing, has sat atop bestseller lists for more than a year. She is happily sticking to fiction, she told the crowd and is working on a new novel set in Florida.