The Crozet Library is a cornerstone of our community. Many residents enjoy its books, programs, computers, and meeting rooms, facilitated by a knowledgeable and friendly staff. But how did we come to acquire such a comfortable and architecturally beautiful space? As the speakers at the library’s well-attended 10th anniversary celebration September 29 explained, it was not an easy process.
Many people responsible for making the library project happen were there, including Bill Schrader, chair of the Build Crozet Library Committee; Ann Mallek, long-time White Hall District representative on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors; Tim Tolson, Crozet Community Association (CCA) president and member of both the library design and fundraising committees; Jane Kulow, Friends of JMRL Library director and strong advocate for the library; David Wayland, then-CCA president; Wendy Saz, then-Crozet Library Branch Manager; and Phil James, Crozet historian. David Plunkett, current JMRL director also attended, and current Branch Manager Hayley Tompkins hosted. Meanwhile, the more than 200 supporters who filled the library enjoyed apple cider donuts, popcorn, and lemonade while reminiscing about the many stages and strong advocacy it took to get the library built.
As Schrader recalled, he received the first donation of $10,000 to the fundraising campaign from Robert Morgan in 2006. Although the county acknowledged then that a new library was needed in Crozet, the 2008 recession shelved the project, and it was an uphill battle after that to get the project back into the County budget. Supervisor Mallek recounted her continued advocacy at the Board of Supervisors (BOS), including inviting Supervisor Duane Snow to attend a children’s summer reading event at the library’s previous location, the tiny (but cozy) train depot building (now the Crozet Artisan Depot). “Being squished in there with nearly 200 children made him realize how much a new library was needed,” she said.
The Library Design Committee met with architects to develop the ultimately stunning design. When Kulow presented her analysis to the BOS proving that every day they delayed, the cost of the project increased, our library was finally approved in late 2011.
“I remember when the BOS tried to cut the square footage from 19,000 to 12,000 square feet,” Mallek continued, “and Bill (Schrader) stood up and said, ‘you build the whole building and we’ll raise the money to furnish and supply it with books.’” Eventually, that fundraising campaign raised $1.1 million from 987 individual donors. Donors of $1,000 or more earned a leaf on the Giving Tree in the lobby. The groundbreaking occurred in 2012, leading to the library’s opening on September 28, 2013.
JMRL Director David Plunkett congratulated the library on its 240,000 checkouts per year, with a total of 2.5 million checkouts since it opened. “To me, such a successful ten years is a testament to this community, and the care they share for learning and for each other,” he said. A “By the Numbers” handout revealed that the Crozet Library has served over 1 million visitors and issued over 12,000 library cards during its ten years. While the Depot library contained 35,947 items, that collection has grown to 69,976 items today. “When my colleagues said print was dead and 12,000 sq. ft. would be big enough, I argued with them,” added Mallek. “The community has proved the naysayers wrong with these wonderful statistics.”
The Crozet Library has served the community for more than 100 years. It began its life in 1907 in The Square. In 1910, it moved to Crozet High School—then located on St. George Ave.— then in 1918 to the second floor of the Bank of Crozet, and in 1928 to the Woman’s Civic Club (at the corner of Jarman’s Gap Rd. and Carter Street). It was even located in what is now Bluebird & Co. for 15 years before it finally moved to the train depot building in 1984, via a citizen “book brigade” that passed the books by hand to the Depot. Recreating this Book Brigade in 2013 was Mallek’s idea. It was a joyful day when more than 300 Crozet residents—including many of those in attendance at the anniversary celebration, as well as ninety 3rd and 4th graders from Crozet Elementary School—lined up under the bridge on Crozet Avenue on August 17, 2013, through the Square, and along Oak Street to transport the last children’s books hand-over-hand from the Depot to the new library prior to its September opening (vimeo.com/73353395). The story of the Crozet Library clearly proves that it takes a village!