Long Live the Library! J-MRL Celebrates 100 Years

The opening of the new Crozet Library was celebrated with a book brigade from the old depot to the new building in 2013. Photo: Gazette Archive.

The Jefferson-Madison Regional Library celebrated its 100th anniversary by sponsoring a film about its history, which was presented to a full house at the Paramount Theater October 21. Jointly funded by JMRL and the Albemarle-Charlottesville Historical Society (ACHS), Free and Open to the Public was directed by Lorenzo Dickerson and produced by Maupintown Media. A companion exhibit is currently on display at ACHS (albemarlehistory.org).

Combining archival photos chronicling the history of the library system—from the original 1921 building donated by Paul Goodloe McIntire (which now houses the historical society) through the subsequent building of its five county branches during the 1950s through 1970s and move of the Central Library to the former post office—with personal interviews of long-time librarians, branch managers, and library patrons, the film chronicled the library’s evolution from a Jim Crow, whites-only institution to the diverse, open-access establishment it is today. Library services were available only to blacks at the Jefferson School from 1934-1948 until, primarily through the efforts of Rev. Benjamin Bunn of the First Baptist Church, the Central Library finally desegregated to welcome African Americans.

“The Library’s history mirrors the history of America during the past 100 years,” commented JMRL Director David Plunkett during the panel discussion with Lorenzo Dickerson and ACHS Director Tom Chapman which followed the film screening, “from Jim Crow to free access, truly open to all the public.”

In the film, we learned that the Perry Foundation renovated the Crozet Depot for public use in 1984, and heard about the book brigade that passed the last 200 books by hand to the new Crozet Library building in 2013—where usage doubled in the first two months after opening.

Peter Manno, president of the Friends of the Library, encouraged library users to join this vital nonprofit, which has supported the library through its biannual book sale since 1966 (jmrlfriends.org).

The Jefferson-Madison Regional Library now serves a population of over 200,000 residents in five jurisdictions—Albemarle, Greene, Nelson, and Louisa counties, along with the City of Charlottesville—with nine locations and the Bookmobile (jmrl.org).

Former Crozet Branch Manager Wendy Saz read an eloquent statement from Laura A. Pinhey’s “Libraries and Democracy”: “The foundation of our public library system is built on the assumption that access to information should be free and open to all…. It follows that libraries, microcosms of democracy, are integral to a truly democratic society.” Current Crozet Library Branch Manager Hayley Tompkins agreed. “The library is that increasingly rare public space where people can gather and access resources absolutely free.”

Email Clover Carroll at [email protected]


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