By Lee Criscuolo
The Central Rappahannock Regional Library grew out of the City of Fredericksburg’s Wallace Library. Here is how our wonderful library system has developed over the years.
Gray’s Circulating Library opens in Fredericksburg. Subscribers of the library pay $5 per year to use the library. But watch out if your books are overdue! Your name might get published in the newspaper!
Fredericksburg Library & Lyceum
A number of leading men of the town of Fredericksburg form the Library and Lyceum Association. The town provides 2 rent free rooms in the Courthouse. Sadly, interest flags after a few years.
The Ladies Auxiliary revives the Library & Lyceum into a flourishing concern.
Bookplate from one of the books belonging to the Fredericksburg Library & Lyceum
Once again, the library falls on hard times when funding becomes scarce and the young lady librarian leaves to get married. The books are packed up and stored in the Courthouse.
8 intrepid ladies vow to run the library on a sound “economical yet progressive” basis. Moncure Conway gives the library high marks and a contribution of 300 books. The library expands to 115 subscribers and 2500 books.
"Fredericksburg: Past, Present, & Future" a lecture given by historian Robert R. Howison requested by, and for the benefit of, the Fredericksburg Library & Lyceum. Howison begins with the formation of the Earth and works his way up to the founding of Fredericksburg and beyond!
Capt C. Wistar Wallace bequeaths $15,000 to the City of Fredericksburg for the purpose of establishing a permanent library to be called the “Wallace Library.” The City Council votes to accept the gift and create a city library. More details on the founding of the Wallace Library
Portion of Capt. Wallace’s will (click to enlarge)
Wallace Library building completed at 817 Princess Anne Street.
Wallace Library opens for business with Miss Sally Gravatt as librarian
Wallace Library Rules (click to enlarge)
Marjorie M. Whidden, a graduate of the McGill University Library School and Director of the Wallace Library, becomes the director of the regional library system at its formation.
The Central Rappahannock Regional Library system is formed as a model to demonstrate the value of public library service to the region. The City of Fredericksburg donates the former Lafayette school building at 1201 Caroline Street to house the library. Its headquarters remains there today.
Dixie Lou Fisher serves as library director for one year.
The books belonging to the Wallace Library are merged with
29,000 additional volumes purchased by the state. The library is funded by the State of Virginia for the 2 year demonstration period. Two bookmobiles are provided which travel to Stafford, Spotsylvania, and Westmoreland Counties.
Rural Bookmobile Stop
The two-year demonstration period ends and the counties of Spotsylvania, Stafford, Westmoreland, Caroline, and the City of Fredericksburg decide to continue and fund the regional library system.
Deborah J. Spiller is named Library Director. She keeps the post until 1979.
Using a federal grant, the library purchases a small van equipped with books, audio-visual materials, and a storyteller named Monadell Robinson. The story van, as it was called, visits outlying areas, which the larger bookmobile can’t reach because it is too heavy to cross certain bridges.
The Colonial Beach Branch is established in the Sunday School Building of St. Mary’s Church on Denison St.
Movies are available for check out. Super 8 & regular! Also 800 LP record albums.
CRRL tries experimental books-by-mail program to increase service to outlying areas.
Library hires a cataloger, bringing the number of full-time employees to 14.
Library considers adding radio tower to roof to keep in touch with roving bookmobiles.
Bowling Green Station branch opens.
After outgrowing the Denison St. space the Colonial Beach Branch moves into new digs on Hawthorne St. in the former Potomac River Fisheries office.
North Stafford Branch established.
The Westmoreland Junior Woman’s Club brings a proposal before the town council for a branch of the library in Montross. The Council approves the proposal.
Betty G. Kohler becomes director of library system. Caroline County decides to withdraw from regional system.
Library receives a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for renovations to the headquarters building including an elevator, reinforcing upper floors to provide more space, make the library more handicapped-friendly, landscaping, and other improvements. The grant requires that $90,000 more be raised locally.
1201 Caroline Street with parking on concrete right in front
1201 Caroline Street after renovation, with new walkways & landscaping to replace parking area (1991)
Library budget includes start-up funds for the Montross Branch and the Spotsylvania Courthouse Branch
CRRL is awarded a $69,000 federal grant to install a computerized microfilm cataloging system to replace the traditional card catalog. The change-over is expected to take a year to complete. 12 microfilm readers will be available in the main library, Stafford, & Westmoreland branches. 2 computer terminals at the main library will connect to a central computer in Richmond which indexes collections from public & private libraries in Virginia.
Donna Cote becomes Library Director & she’s still here!
Spotsylvania Courthouse Branch is established across the street from the Spotsylvania Courthouse (where the Civil War’s Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse
Hague Branch established
Library begins broadcasting on public access Channel 25.
Westmoreland Branch, circa.1987
Hague Branch, circa. 1986
Music on the Steps program begins at HQ. Still going strong today!
To build a new library, or renovate 1201 Caroline Street? That is the question!
To build or renovate, that is STILL the question!
To renovate! That is the answer!
Headquarters building renovated. Floors reinforced, parking increased, main building connected to annex by means of a glass ceiling atrium, the annex then becoming a theater & meeting rooms
VHS movie collection started, LP record collection discarded in favor of CDs
CRRL installs online computerized catalog, replacing the microfiche catalog. Each book and library card has its own barcode. Volunteers take 2 months to apply barcodes to all the books.
The John Musante Porter Memorial Library
opens in Stafford County. The new Porter building is 5 times larger than the previous Stafford Branch, with room for 100,000 volumes, meeting rooms, computers, CD players, VHS players, and overhead projectors for public use. The Porter Branch is named for the late Chairman of the Stafford Board of Supervisors, John Musante Porter.
Library gets equipment to lend to the deaf and hard of hearing from the Virginia Dept. for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing.
C.F. Masonry, owned by Ms. Candis Flener, donates $2,500 worth of labor to pave the brick walkways in front of the HQ
Community Link computer database of local organizations launched
Porter Branch has 8 catalog computers and 2 general use computers for the public!
Library gets new bookmobile.
The Salem Church Branch
opens Sept 19. In its first week 16,000 books, videos, & CDs were checked out!
The Montross Branch
established at Courthouse Square in Westmoreland County.
Bookmobile circulates over 150,000 items to rural patrons, day-care centers, the blind, physically handicapped patrons.
Colonial Beach Branch opens.
Colonial Beach Branch
The Montross branch moves from its Courthouse Square building into the Johnson Building because the former building was in danger of collapse!
CRRL offers internet access to patrons and has session to introduce people to the internet. Only 15 % of Americans have internet access. Library plans to have computers in the reference area soon for people to access “selected research sites” Says Donna Cote, “The library’s goal is to provide equitable access to electronic information to all our patrons”
25th Anniversary of the CRRL
CRRL launches its own website, Planet CRRL!
The online Ask a CRRL Librarian
service is up and running. The Fairfax County Library is the only other public library in the area to offer a similar service.
DVD collection started
Blake T. Newton Memorial Library
opens in Hague. It will house 15,000 books, 8 internet access computers, data ports for laptops, and the first electronic books in the library system.
Boy using computer
Catalog on computer & computer work station
CRRL receives a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create a computer lab at headquarters and provide computers at other branches for the public to access the internet, word process, etc. Classes in computer use will be taught by library staff.
Library’s homepage as it appeared in 2001…
moves into new building, nearly the twin of the Newton Branch.
The library begins offering live, 24/7 online reference chat service through the Questionpoint cooperative.
Central Rappahannock Regional Library named #1 Public Library for its size (serving 100,000 to 249,000) in Virginia, and 7th for its size nationwide, ahead of 313 other libraries, according to Hennen's American Public Library Rankings.
(the library’s half hour cable TV show) premieres. All the shows are available on DVD at the library.
Downloadable audio books available.
CRRL ranks 4th nationwide among libraries its size in Hennen's American Public Library Rankings.
Salem Church expansion completed! Salem Church now offers 52 public computers, new display shelving, quiet study rooms, couches & tables with outlets for laptops. Library is now 25,000 square feet.
CRRL named a Star Library by Library Journal, ranked tops among Virginia libraries of our size, among the stellar libraries in the nation.
The England Run Branch
, located at the intersection of Plantation Drive and Lyons Boulevard in Stafford County, opened to the public on October 4. The building's design incorporates many green building features
- The first person to check out a book from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library was Mrs. Walter R. Yost.
- The mystery cupola
A 1915 picture postcard shows a photograph of the Lafayette Elementary School (currently the library headquarters) with a cupola/clock tower on top of the building. What happened to it? It certainly is not there now!
- When was smoking banned inside the library buildings? 1986
- The top 5 books checked out in August 1992: Gone with the wind, Roots, Resumes that knock ‘em dead, Green Eggs & Ham, and Where the Wild Things Are.
- What year did circulation first top one million items? 1991! (To be precise, 1,074,243 were checked out.)
- The strangest item ever returned in a library book? A real fried egg.