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Secrets of the Blue Ridge: The Library of Crozet
by Phil James (Crozet Gazette Feb 2010)
The possibility of a branch library for Crozet was first discussed publicly at the November 1963 meeting of the Crozet Lion’s Club; Raymond Williams, then director of the McIntire Library spoke on the subject. Williams noted in his talk that the area had been served for the previous ten years by the bookmobile.
On January 3, 1964, the Crozet Library committee was established with Roy Patterson as chairman. The purpose of the group was to establish a library until financial support could be secured through the county during the new fiscal year beginning July 1. The library opened its doors on May 6, 1964 in a small building across the street from its current location.
When, after several years, the Olive Tree building proved too small to house the growing collection, the books were moved into what is now Crozet Hardware. This site, too, had to be abandoned, however, in order to accomodate the current business when the development of Windham forced it out of its old quarters.
As a temporary measure, the library was housed in a portion of the building that now contains the Green Olive Tree, though quarters were so cramped that almost a third of the collection had to be stored off-site. The library was open 22 hours a week.
Mary Plum, previous Branch Manager, recalls,“There were boxes, carts and stacks of books everywhere that couldn’t fit on the shelves. Someone would come in looking for a particular cook book and I would say, ‘’Check that pile.’”
The Crozet Library League was organized, and worked to raise funds and bring the community’s attention to this situation.
In 1984, the Perry Foundation purchased and restored the railroad depot, abandoned for years, as a home for the library. The new facility was opened in May of that year with festivities that included the Court Square Dancers and the Crossroads String Band. The building itself had a long history.
The railroad line serving Crozet was opened in the 1850s. Originally known as the Virginia Central Railroad, this line pushed from Gordonsville west into the Shenadoah Valley through a tunnel engineered by Claudius Crozet, the French engineer for whom the town is named. In 1858, the first train rolled through the tunnel into the valley.
The first wooden frame depot was built to serve nearby Miller School, and Crozet grew up around it, encouraged by the region’s flourishing fruit industry. Plans were drawn for a new brick depot as early as 1916, but World War I delayed the start of construction. The building now occupied by the library was built in 1923 at a cost of $16,000.
When the automated catalog and record-keeping system was installed in 1987, circulation doubled. The growth of the community and library business continued apace. Presently, the Crozet branch has a staff of five: three full-time and two part-time employees, circulates about 10,000 items each month, and is open for 48 hours each week.
Since the library is the fourth busiest branch of the JMRL system, and the Crozet area has experienced rapid growth, more space is needed for the Crozet Library to serve its population. Once again, the library will be on the move to a new home. (see above)