Anne W. Harper founded the library as a private not-for-profit agency in 1903. In 1963 a new library of about 5,000 square feet was built on Belleview Ave. The board of the Orange County Library Association elected to join the county as a county agency in 1992. Using grant funding the library purchased its first automation system, a Brodart Le Pac CD-ROM based system, in 1992.
In April 1995 the Wilderness Branch Library, a 7,500 square foot facility, was opened in Locust Grove to serve the northeastern part of the county. A new automation system was installed as part of the construction. In summer 1995 the main library relocated its headquarters to the Sedwick Building and began using the new Dynix/Ameritech computer system. The move doubled the amount of space to 10,000 square feet.
In March 1998 a small branch, 980 square feet, with limited hours (20 hours per week) was opened in the former Gordonsville Town Hall. The facility at a cost of one dollar per year until the branch relocated in 2010. In June 1998, the Library System hired its first professional cataloger, Teresa Knapp. This position uses the specialized skills learned during the Masters in Library Science degree program to create detailed records for the library’s computerized catalog. In November 1998, Dynix informed us that winter that they would be discontinuing maintenance on our system effective the end of June 1999 because the system was not Y2K compliant and could not be made to be compliant. Also in November 1998 our Library Director, Esther Blythe, who had been with the library for 10 years, retired. Katie Hill, the Wilderness Branch Librarian was appointed as Acting Director.
The Library Board of Trustees approached the Board of Supervisors in February 1999 about our automation problem. They responded to our needs and after a procurement process involving competitive bidding, The Library Corporation was selected to be the vendor for the new automation system. The system was purchased on a three-year lease purchase through Suntrust Bank. In March 1999, Katie Hill was hired as the new Library Director. In July 1999 the Ameritech/Dynix system experienced a total system failure. The library operated manually until the installation of our TLC system in October 1999.
In 2000, the hours at our Gordonsville Branch were expanded to 40 hours per week. In February 2001, the library installed a dedicated high-speed Internet access circuit to serve the public and staff at all three facilities. The library also launched its first website.
In summer 2001, the Library received 4 new computers for public Internet access from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the main library and 2 computers each for the Wilderness Branch and Gordonsville Branch through the Library of Virginia’s Infopowering the Commonwealth program.
In August 2002, the Library System welcomed its first professional Youth Services Librarian, Genevieve Gallagher. This position is dedicated to providing collections, programs and services for children and youth and is currently held by Michelle Pursel. In September 2002, Billie Crites our Library Assistant at the Gordonsville Branch was promoted from a part-time employee to a full-time employee to help handle the increased traffic at the branch.
In August 2003, the Library System celebrated its centennial with record numbers and its first ever month with 30,000+ checkouts.
In June 2004 the Gordonsville Branch Library was closed for two months so that mold remediation and repairs could be made. This closure had a profound impact on the annual use statistics for that year. Wireless access for the public was installed at the Main Library and the Wilderness Branch in December of 2004. We began regularly scheduled replacements of the library’s computer equipment in 2004 on a 5 year cycle.
In 2005 we installed Envisonware’s PC Reservation system to maximize the availability of our public Internet terminals with automatic enforcement of time deadlines. Computer use has increased 103% since the software was installed.
Our first Youth Services Librarian for Services to Young Adults, Gillian Dawson was hired in September 2006. In 2006 the Library also installed Envisonware’s Network Content Manager to provide filtering of our public Internet terminals.
In July 2007 legislation requiring the filtering of all library computers in order to receive state aid became effective. The library was in compliance in advance of the deadline.
In January 2009, the library reconfigured its wide-area network (WAN) to try and solve problems with slowness, especially at the branches and improve security.
In March 2009, the Gordonsville Branch received funding to purchase 4 public access computers from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In May 2009 the Main Library added six additional public access computers with some financial assistance from the Friends of the Library to help meet the increased demand for computers, especially for online job applications.
In July 2009, we broke ground on the construction of a new location for the Gordonsville Branch. The new facility is an adaptive reuse project incorporating a former church built in 1884 and is expected to open to the public in early 2010. The community provided significant support for the new building with the Gordonsville Friends of the Library raising over $65,000, the Orange County Library Foundation also raised over $65,000 and donations from other individuals and companies were over $100,000. The BAMAWorks Foundation provided a $10,000 grant for the teen area and another grantor who wishes to be anonymous provided $17,425 for the circulation desk area.
In July 2009, the Library reduced hours in response to reductions in its funding by the County. The Main Library reduced hours by 15 per month, the Wilderness Branch reduced hours by 13.5 per month and the Gordonsville Branch reduced hours by 9 hours per month. The Young-Adult Services Librarian position was also eliminated.
In May 2010, the new Gordonsville Branch opened at 319 N. Main St. in Gordonsville, VA 22942.
In July 2010, the Library changed its hours and restored some of what had been cut. Gordonsville restored all of its hours while Main restored 5 hours a month and Wilderness restored 3.5 hours a month.
In August 2010, the Library moved its website to the Plinkit Platform hosted by the Library of Virginia at no cost to the library.
In June 2011, the library began offering access to e-books and downloadable audios through Overdrive. The project was initially funded by a generous donation to the Orange County Public Library Foundation by the estate of Marian A. Moore. The library joined the Blue Ridge Download Consortium to pool purchasing power and share resources with 10 other libraries in our region.
In October 2011, the Johnny Scott Garden at the Gordonsville Branch Library was opened to the public. The garden was funded entirely by community donations and features native plants.
In June 2013, the Library participated in a 2 year pilot program using software from Evanced for tracking participation in our Summer Reading Program and linking it to SOL scores. The project was sponsored by the Library of Virginia and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). It clearly demonstrated that participating in Summer Reading at a library increased SOL scores.
In October 2013, The Library switched Internet service providers from a T1 network on Verizon to a fiber optic network on Comcast. The switch will increase bandwidth from 7.5 Mbps per location to 25 Mbps.
In May 2015 the Library moved its web site to the Word Press platform for greater flexibility while still being supported by the Library of Virginia and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
In fall of 2015 the Wilderness Branch Library closed for several weeks so that it could be painted and have new carpeting and shelving installed. The furnishings were updated and overall look of the branch was modernized and improved.
In summer of 2017 through early 2018, the Main Library was refreshed with new furnishings, a partial re-paint and some layout changes. The update focused on providing more access to power for personal digital devices, adding additional seating and creating an updated look.
In March of 2020 the library closed for a few weeks for the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic and re-opened in May with curbside service. In June 2020 it re-opened fully with minimally reduced hours until January of 2021 when it again went to curbside service.
The library system currently operates 3 locations, which are open on a variable schedule with a maximum of 131 hours a week. 24 staff members (18 of them part-time) work for the library system. An average of 13,725 patrons a month use the libraries and 10,650 patrons are active registered borrowers as of January 2021. The library also serves all residents of adjoining counties as part of a reciprocal agreement with the libraries in some of those counties. The library checked out 225,347 items in FY 2020 and 297,661 in FY 2019.
The Orange County Library is managed by a 6 member governing board, appointed by the Board of Supervisors. The appointments are usually for 4 years but staggered term appointments were implemented in January 2005 to prevent the changeover of a majority of the Board at one time. The Library Board of Trustees includes 1 trustee per supervisory district, plus one at large member which rotates between districts. A list of the current members follows this document. The Library Board of Trustees is responsible for setting all library policy, obtaining and budgeting our funding, hiring and supervising the Library Director and creating formal planning documents. Their responsibilities and role are defined in the Code of Virginia (42.1-35). The Library Board of Trustees meets the third Thursday of February, April, June, August, October and December at 4:00 p.m. in the Main Library Meeting Room (unless otherwise announced). Some meetings are held at the branch libraries and during Covid-19, held via Zoom. The library system receives a significant amount of its funding from the state through the Library of Virginia. For fiscal year 2021 we will receive $173,996 in state aid. This funding comes to us with strings attached. The regulations on the use of these funds are in the Code of Virginia (42.1-50-54). All of the funds budgeted for materials provided for checkout by the library are state funds which are “passed through” the County’s budget.