Julia Ellen Grothaus, librarian, daughter of Frederick Edward and Caroline (Schorre) Grothaus, was born on February 12, 1886, in Berg's Mill, Texas. Her father was a judge in DeWitt County and later served in the Texas legislature as the representative of the Twenty-fourth District (1870–71). She attended public schools in San Antonio and subsequently studied at Southwest Texas State Normal School (now Southwest Texas State University), the University of Tennessee, and the University of Illinois. She taught in the public schools in San Antonio and Pattison, Texas, from 1906 until 1916.
She began employment in 1917 at the San Antonio Public Library, where she worked until her retirement in 1957, except for the period 1918–21, when she worked for the federal government in library service for the army and in postal censorship. During the time she served as the director of the San Antonio Public Library, 1933–57, the institution was the recipient of several significant bequests, including the Edward Dixon Westfall estate, the Harry Landa home, and the Harry Hertzberg collections of rare books and circus memorabilia; county library service was established; bookmobile service was begun; in-service training for employees was offered by Our Lady of the Lake College (now Our Lady of the Lake University); an employee classification plan within the library was inaugurated; and a staff association was organized. Grothaus was successful in maintaining the library's service during two difficult periods-the Great Depression and the McCarthy era-during which she was able to forestall drastic cuts in the nature and quality of service of the library.
Julia Grothaus was active in several professional organizations. As president of the Texas Library Association (1940–41) she initiated a survey of the Texas State Library and appointed a committee to help establish a library school at the University of Texas. She was also active in the American Library Association, the Southwestern Library Association (treasurer, 1945–47), and the Bexar Library Club (organizing officer, 1935). She was a member of the board of Sunshine Cottage, a school for hearing-impaired children, from 1947 to 1957 and was a founding member of the San Antonio Council for Educational Television in 1952. She had no political affiliations and was a lifelong member of the Lutheran Church. She died in San Antonio on November 5, 1976.