Fairfax County Public Library Celebrates 75 Years of Service

Residents of Fairfax have had a deep interest in books and reading since the 1700s. During that time, however, “libraries” were mainly in private homes and owned by prosperous residents such as Thomas Sixth Lord Fairfax and his family of Belvoir; George Mason of Gunston Hall; and George Washington of Mount Vernon. Town and community libraries were established in Vienna in 1897, Fall Church in 1899, the Herndon Fortnightly Club in 1899 and McLean before 1915.

By 1929 residents in other areas of the county began appealing to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for a countywide system. Plans finally began to fall into place 10 years later. In February 1939 the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to establish a free countywide library system. In March they appropriated $250. Realizing additional funding would be needed, the five-member library Board of Trustees turned to the State Library Board and the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA). The funding received was allocated for one bookmobile (on loan) a driver, a librarian, books and other personnel. By July 1940 the first bookmobile was making stops throughout the county.

Seventy-five years later, Fairfax County Public Library has 23 branches reaching every part of the county. Could early founders have imagined today’s library? It grew from 4,029 users in 1942 to over 450,000 today and a collection of a few hundred to over 2.3 million. Could they imagine a computerized collection, online databases and people sitting in a chair at the library, small devices in hand typing messages or sending photos to family and friends across the globe using WiFi?

To celebrate the Fairfax County Public Library’s 75 years an array of special events and activities will mark this milestone. A new 75th Anniversary commemorative library card is available to library users.

“While we celebrate the library system’s 75 years In Fairfax County, we also celebrate the wonder of reading and books and how much value they bring to our lives from childhood through old age,” says Library Director Edwin “Sam” Clay III. “We are indebted to those early champions who actively advocated for a countywide library and to the Friends groups that raised the money for many of our first library branches and continue to fundraise for the library today. Once these champions started the ball rolling, there was no turning back.”

See photos of the library since its opening. More information on events and the 75th Anniversary library card are on the library website.

The historical facts in this release are from “Books and Beyond: Fairfax County Public Library’s First Fifty Years,” written by Nan Netherton and funded by the Fairfax City Friends Group.

Fairfax County is committed to nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in all county programs, services and activities. To request this information in an alternate format, call 703-324-8380, TTY 703-324-8365.

Fairfax County Public Library
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 324
Fairfax, Virginia 22035
Media Contact: Mary Mulrenan
703-324-8319, TTY 703-324-8365, Fax 703-324-3180
Feb. 10, 2014, 18-14

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