The Resource Agency history of the Library of Virginia
- Agency history of the Library of Virginia
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- For many years, The Library of Virginia had no definitive home. Valuable early records were kept at Jamestown as early as 1676 and were then moved to the College of William and Mary for a brief period at the century's end. By 1780, extant records were moved to the Capitol in Richmond.
- Coincidentally, in 1779, the Virginia General Assembly was presented among its legislation, "A Bill for Establishing a Public Library" drawn up by Thomas Jefferson. The bill provided for 2000 pounds yearly to be expended to maintain a State Library in Richmond. The facility was to be a reference library only without books being lent for home use. Perhaps ahead of its time, the bill failed to pass.
- The Virginia State Library was created by an act passed by the General Assembly on January 23, 1823, to establish a public library with funds derived from the sale of William W. Hening's THE STATUTES AT LARGE. From 1823 to 1828, the Library was under the control of the governor and council. In 1828, the General Assembly created a joint committee on the library (located in a room in the southeastern corner of the Capitol) to oversee its administration. Use of the State Library was restricted to members of the state government in a policy that continued until at least 1856. The Secretary of the Commonwealth served ex officio as state librarian from 1832 to 1903.
- The growth of the State Library was somewhat erratic. Book holdings increased from 1,313 in 1828 to 17,480 in 1856. Lack of funds and politics frequently intermingled to slow library development. General W.H. Richardson, State Librarian in 1852, became embroiled in an effort to remove him "to make way for some politician of democratic principles." At the close of Reconstruction, Dr. George William Bagby, then State Librarian, was terminated and his position abolished at the hands of Readjusters.
- Eventually, on May 15, 1903, the General Assembly passed an act that created a library board to administer the library, authorized the deposit of public records in the library, provided for the publication of historical records by the library, and established a library fund for the purchase of books and private papers. The Library Board, which was responsible for naming the State Librarian, was itself appointed by the Board of Education. The General Assembly passed an act on March 29, 1944, transferring the power to appoint the Library Board to the governor.
- While many public records somehow survived the Commonwealth's early years, many losses occurred due to fires, the ravages of war and negligence. When the library was moved, for example, in 1895 to a building separate from the Capitol, "chutes were constructed from the upper story of the Capitol to facilitate the delivery of books to the wagons of the junk dealer who had bought them." The move was poorly planned and the library's contents suffered great loss at the hands of those very authorities assigned to protect them.
- The new facility quickly was found to be inadequate and efforts were made both in 1910 and 1920 to construct a proper building for the State Library and its collections. Ground was broken for a new facility on December 7, 1938. At last, on December 23, 1940, the newly completed Virginia State Library was opened to the public.
- The Virginia State Library adopted the name, the Virginia State Library and Archives, in early 1987 to more adequately reflect its mission and purpose today. On July 1, 1994 the name was changed to The Library of Virginia, evocative of the Library of Congress. In 1997 the library moved to, it's fourth and current location, the 800 block of East Broad Street.
- The title of State Librarian has been held by: John Pendleton Kennedy (1903-1906), Henry Read McIllwaine (1907-1934), Wilmer L. Hall (1935-1947), Randolph W. Church (1948-1970), Donald R. Haynes (1971-1984), Ella Gaines Yates (1985-1990), Dr. John C. Tyson (1991-1994), Nolan T. Yelich (1995-2007), the current State Librarian, Sandra Gioia Treadway, took office July 1, 2007.
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