Library Timeline

By Lee Criscuolo

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:

 Before the CRRL

 
1822
 
Gray’s Circulating Library opens in Fredericksburg. Subscribers to the library pay $5 per year to use it. But watch out if your books are overdue! Your name might get published in the newspaper!
 
Fredericksburg Library & Lyceum
 
1877
 

A number of leading men of the town of Fredericksburg form the Library and Lyceum Association. The town provides rent-free rooms in the City's courthouse. Sadly, interest flags after a few years.

1887
 

The Ladies Auxiliary revives the Library & Lyceum into a flourishing concern.

1894

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.

1895

Eight intrepid ladies vow to run the library on a sound “economical yet progressive” basis. Locally born abolitionist Moncure Daniel Conway gives the library high marks and a contribution of 300 books. The library expands to 115 subscribers and 2,500 books.

1898

"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!

1909-1969: The Wallace Library

1907

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

1909
 
Wallace Library building completed at 817 Princess Anne Street.
             
1910
 
Wallace Library opens for business with Miss Sally Gravatt as the librarian. You can read its rules for borrowers here.
 

1959-1970

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.

1969 – 1971: Regional library demonstration period

1969

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.

 
1970
 
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.

1971- today: CRRL grows and matures

1971
 
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.
 

1972

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 Regional Friends of the Library forms chapters in Spotsylvania, Stafford, Westmoreland, & Caroline counties, and the City of Fredericksburg.
 
The Colonial Beach Branch is established in the Sunday school building of St. Mary’s Church on Denison Street.
 
Movies are available for check out. Super 8 & regular! Also 800 LP record albums.
 
The Virginiana Room opens to showcase & preserve the history of Virginia.
 
1974
 
CRRL tries an experimental books-by-mail program to increase service to outlying areas.
 
1976
 
The library system hires a cataloger, bringing the number of full-time employees to 14.
 
The library considers adding radio tower to the roof of the Fredericksburg building to keep in touch with roving bookmobiles.
 
The Bowling Green Station branch opens.
 
1977
 
After outgrowing the Denison Street space, the Colonial Beach Branch moves into new digs on Hawthorne Street in the former Potomac River Fisheries office.
 
1978
 
North Stafford Branch established.
 
1979
 
The Westmoreland Junior Woman’s Club brings a proposal before the town council for a branch of the library to be placed in Montross. The council approves the proposal.
 
Betty G. Kohler becomes director of the library system. Caroline County decides to withdraw from the regional system.
 
1980
 
CRRL receives a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for renovations to the headquarters building in Fredericksburg, including the addition of an elevator to make the library more accessible, reinforcing upper floors to provide more space, as well as landscaping and other improvements. The grant requires that $90,000 more be raised locally.
 
1981
 
The library system's 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. Twelve microfilm readers will be available in the main library in Fredericksburg, as well as others at the North Stafford Branch and the Westmoreland branches. Two computer terminals at the main library in Fredericksburg will connect to a central computer in Richmond, which indexes collections from public & private libraries in Virginia.
 
Donna Cote becomes Library Director.
                                              
1983
 
Spotsylvania Courthouse Branch is established across the street from the Spotsylvania Courthouse (where the Civil War’s Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse took place). 
 

1985

Hague Branch established in Westmoreland County.
 
Library begins broadcasting on public access Channel 25. 
 

Alliance for Literacy program established to help adults gain reading skills.   

1986
 
Music on the Steps program begins at the Fredericksburg Branch (Headquarters). Still going strong today!
 
1987
 
To build a new library for Fredericksburg, or renovate 1201 Caroline Street? That is the question!
 
1988
 
To build or renovate, that is STILL the question!
 
1989
 
To renovate! That is the answer!
 
1990
 

Headquarters building in Fredericksburg is renovated. Floors are reinforced, parking is increased, and the main building is connected to the annex by means of a glass-ceiling atrium. The annex then becomes a theater with meeting rooms

VHS movie collection started; LP record collection discarded in favor of CDs
 
1991
 
CRRL installs an online computerized catalog, replacing the microfiche catalog. Each book and library card has its own barcode. Volunteers take two months to apply barcodes to all the books.
 
1992
 
John Musante Porter Memorial Library opens in Stafford County. The new building is five times larger than the previous North Stafford Branch, with room for 100,000 volumes, meeting rooms, computers, CD players, VHS players, and overhead projectors for public use. 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 Department for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing.

1993
 
C.F. Masonry, owned by Ms. Candis Flener, donates $2,500 worth of labor to pave the brick walkways in front of the Fredericksburg Branch.
 
Community Link computer database of local organizations launched
 
Porter Branch has eight catalog computers and two general use computers for the public!
 
The library system gets a new bookmobile.
 
1994
 
Salem Church Branch opens Sept 19. In its first week, 16,000 books, videos, & CDs were checked out!
 
Montross Branch is established at Courthouse Square in Westmoreland County.
 
The bookmobile circulates over 150,000 items to rural customers, daycare centers, and physically handicapped customers.
 

Colonial Beach Branch opens.

1996
 
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 customers and has sessions to introduce people to the Internet. The library system 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
  
1997
 
CRRL launches its own website, Planet CRRL!
 
1998
 
Former Spotsylvania Courthouse Branch is reborn as C. Melvin Snow Memorial Library in the Marshall Center building.
 
1999
 
The online Ask a CRRL Librarian service is up and running. Fairfax County Library is the only other public library in the area to offer a similar service.
 
2000
 
Colonial Beach Branch moves to 18 Washington Avenue and is renamed Abraham and William Cooper Memorial Branch.
 
DVD collection started
 

2001

Blake T. Newton Memorial Library opens in Hague. It will house 15,000 books, eight Internet-access computers, data ports for laptops, and the first electronic books in the library system.          
 
CRRL receives a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create a computer lab at the Headquarters Library in Fredericksburg 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.
 

The library system's website, designed by Adriana Puckett, is named LibrarySpot.com’s Library Site of the Month.

2002
 
Montross Branch moves into a new building, nearly the twin of the Newton Branch.
 
The library begins offering live, 24/7 online reference chat service through the Questionpoint cooperative.
 
Ebooks are now available!
 
2003
 
Central Rappahannock Regional Library is 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.
 
"CRRL Presents" (the library’s half-hour cable TV show) premieres. All the shows are available on DVD at the library.
 
2005
 
Downloadable audiobooks available.
 
2009
 
Salem Church Branch expansion is completed! Salem Church Branch now offers 52 public computers, new display shelving, quiet study rooms, and couches & tables with outlets for laptops. This branch is now 25,000 square feet.
 
2010
 
England Run Branch (now the William J. Howell Branch), located at the intersection of Plantation Drive and Lyons Boulevard in southern Stafford County, opens to the public on October 4. The building's design incorporates many green building features.
 
2015
 
Library Director Donna Cote retires.
 
2016
 
Martha Hutzel becomes Library Director, the first new director in 34 years. Martha has worked for the library for 27 years and has managed the Snow Memorial, Porter Memorial, and England Run branches.
 
2017
 
In April, CRRL expands its locations to include the Belmont Community Center Satellite Library in rural Spotsylvania, continuing our commitment to reach out to our customers, while partnering with Spotsylvania County, the Belmont Ruritan Club, and the Belmont Club of Women. 
 
In May, library administrators and administrative staff move from the third floor of the Fredericksburg Branch to the Library Administration Center at 125 Olde Greenwich Drive, Suite 160.
 
On July 1, all children's and teens' materials become exempt from late fees to increase their accessibility.
 
In December, the Stafford County Board of Supervisors passes a resolution renaming England Run Branch as William J. Howell Branch, in honor of the retiring House of Delegates Speaker.
 
2018
 

In March, the Assistive Services Department changes its name to Access Services and moves to the more accessible Library Administrative Center, 125 Olde Greenwich Drive, Suite 155.

In July, Fredericksburg Branch, with the assistance of the City of Fredericksburg, doubles its available parking spaces to 56 and increases the lot's accessibility.

Spotsylvania Towne Centre Branch opens on August 8 with generous support from the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors and the Cafaro Company.
 
The Joint Use Branch at the Fried Center opens on August 20, in partnership with Germanna Community College.
 
Trivia
  •  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 Lafayette Elementary School (currently Fredericksburg Branch) 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 five 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

For more insights into CRRL's past, peruse our CRRL in the News scrapbooks of Free Lance-Star articles, covering the years 1969 to 2000.

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