So That All Can Use the Library: 35 Years of Access Services

Effective Monday, February 5, 2024, the Access Services department is located at Howell Branch, opens a new window at 806 Lyons Boulevard, Fredericksburg, VA 22406. Please watch this page, opens a new window for updates or contact Access Services, opens a new window for more information.

In October of 1988, Central Rappahannock Regional Library (CRRL) established an Outreach Department, which over time would become today’s Access Services Department. In honor of its 35th year of operations, Access Services Librarian Babak Zarin reached out to CRRL staff to share their memories and stories of Access Services.

What follows is a testament to the service, the customers, and the joy of reading the last 35 years have brought. Here’s to 35 more!

October 1988
The Outreach Services Department is established at the Fredericksburg (then known as Headquarters) Branch on Caroline Street. Nancy Schiff serves as the first head of the new department, which encompasses: 1) the Inter-Library Loan (ILL) service, which helps customers borrow books from other libraries; 2) the Bookmobile, which delivers books to those unable to visit the library; 3) Adult Literacy, which helps adults learn to read, as well as stocking materials to prepare for standardized tests; and 4) Assistive Services, which provides services for those with disabilities.

October 1990
CRRL signs an agreement with the National Library Service of the Library of Congress, establishing the Fredericksburg Subregional Library for the Blind and Print Disabled (or “Talking Books Library”), offering audiobook services to those whose disabilities made reading text difficult.

July 2003
Elizabeth “Beth” Solka begins her tenureship as Talking Books Library Administrator and Assistive Services Manager. For the next 16 years, until her retirement in 2019, Beth’s instrumental leadership deftly stewards the development and growth of Assistive Services.

July 2008
The Talking Books library reaches a milestone of 500 users of its services.

October 2009
Talking Books librarians gain the capacity to select books for readers with their permission, through the newly released Reads 1.0 system. This allows for more books to be sent as those with difficulty browsing books are able to give librarians instructions on what to send them.

October 2010
The Bookmobile service evolves into the Lobby Stops, opens a new window program following the retirement of the bookmobile due to difficulties in repairing the vehicle.

July 2011
Outreach Services is renamed Assistive Services and gains a presence, opens a new window on the library website.

October 2012
Due to their immensely successful work in Assistive Services, Beth Solka and CRRL Research Librarian Mutahara Mobashar are invited to present at the 2012 Virginia Library Association Conference, where they do in a presentation entitled “Judge Not by the Cover but by the Audio: Providing Books to the Visually Impaired.” Their work is also subsequently highlighted the following April in the Virginia Libraries publication in a piece entitled “That All May Read: The Fredericksburg Subregional Library for the Blind,” which can be accessed at this link., opens a new window

July 2016
As part of a restructuring of departments at CRRL, the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) and Lobby Stop services begin the process of becoming separate, independent departments. This results in Lobby Stops merging with CRRL’s reformed Outreach service, Library on the Go,, opens a new window while Adult Literacy is merged into Adult Services more broadly, and ILL becomes a purely independent department.

October 2018
Assistive Services moves from its location on Caroline Street in Fredericksburg to its current location at the Library Administrative Center on Olde Greenwich Drive and is renamed as “Access Services.” Great care is taken during the move to ensure the specialized equipment used by librarians--including the Gutenberg printer for Talking Books, which CRRL had been invited to use as part of a nationwide pilot, and a Sorenson Device, received from the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing as part of a statewide pilot--are transferred to their new location safely.

Around this time the Talking Book librarians gain the ability to send users multiple books on one tape, resulting in a significant increase in the number of books being read.

July 2019
After 16 years of tremendous service and success, Beth Solka retires from CRRL. Babak Zarin succeeds her in her position, now retitled Access Services Librarian, and begins to build on Beth’s work to further increase the scope of available services offered at Access Services.

March 2020
The spread of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) results in the entirety of CRRL having to close physical branches and begin remote work. Babak Zarin immediately begins working with CRRL librarians to ensure digital access to library services continue through developing virtual versions of multiple library programs, including the Rappahannock Writers Conference, and working with the Department of the Blind and Vision Impaired to have Talking Books mailed from Richmond, so users of Talking Books continue receiving them during the Stay-at-Home period of the pandemic.

November 2021
In a joint partnership with the Library of Virginia, CRRL assists with the launch of the statewide Deaf Culture Digital Library,, opens a new window which offers resources and information about library services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing throughout Virginia.