Central Rappahannock Regional Library grew out of the Wallace Library, now Fredericksburg Branch. Here is how our wonderful library system has developed over the years. This timeline originated as a project by librarian Lee Criscuolo, and is updated as CRRL grows.
Before the CRRL
- 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.
- 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.
- The Ladies Auxiliary revives the Library and Lyceum into a flourishing concern.
- 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.
- 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.
- "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
- 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
- Wallace Library building completed at 817 Princess Anne Street.
- Wallace Library opens for business with Miss Sally Gravatt as the librarian. You can read its rules for borrowers here.
- 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
July 18, 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.
- 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 mature
- 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 hires 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, and 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 and regular! Also 800 LP record albums.
- The Virginiana Room opens to showcase and preserve the history of Virginia.
- CRRL tries an experimental books-by-mail program to increase service to outlying areas.
- 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.
- After outgrowing the Denison Street space, the Colonial Beach Branch moves into new digs on Hawthorne Street 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 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.
- CRRL receives a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for renovations to Fredericksburg Branch, 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.
- The library system's budget includes start-up funds for the Montross Branch and the Spotsylvania Courthouse Branch, known now as the Snow 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 and private libraries in Virginia.
- Donna Cote becomes Library Director.
- Spotsylvania Courthouse Branch is established across the street from the Spotsylvania Courthouse (where the Civil War’s Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse took place).
- 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.
- Music on the Steps program begins at Fredericksburg Branch. Still going strong today!
- Fredericksburg Branch 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
- 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.
- 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 and 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 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.
- Salem Church Branch opens Sept 19. In its first week, 16,000 books, videos, and 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, now known asCooper Branch, opens.
- 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.”
- CRRL celebrates its 25th Anniversary.
- CRRL launches its first website, Planet CRRL!
- Former Spotsylvania Courthouse Branch is reborn as C. Melvin Snow Memorial Library in the Marshall Center building.
- 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.
- Colonial Beach Branch moves to 18 Washington Avenue and is renamed Abraham and William Cooper Memorial Branch.
- DVD collection started.
- 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 processors, etc. Classes in computer use will be taught by library staff.
- 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!
- 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.
- Downloadable audiobooks become available.
- Salem Church Branch expansion is completed! Salem Church Branch now offers 52 public computers, new display shelving, quiet study rooms, and couches and tables with outlets for laptops. This branch is now 25,000 square feet.
- England Run Branch (now 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.
- After 17 years, the bookmobile retires.
- Mobile MakerLabs begin to demonstrate the 3D Printer.
- In October, our first MakerLab is established at the England Run Branch (now the Howell Branch). Began as a partnership with the University of Mary Washington during the Discover Earth exhibit.
- Library Director Donna Cote retires.
- Martha Hutzel becomes Library Director, the first new director in 34 years. Martha has worked for the library for 27 years and has managed Snow, Porter, and England Run branches.
- In April, CRRL expands its Library on the Go 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- iPac, the first online catalog CRRL established, retires.
- Express Checkout machines are established in the branches.
- Online payments become available to customers.
- Library on the Go expands to the Partlow Ruritan Club on 3229 Partlow Road.
- CRRL closed all branches on March 16 due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 public health crisis.
- The first person to check out a book from 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 and 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.