Thursday, July 20, 2017  

Lancaster Community Library
From the Past into the Future

All towns have libraries, right? They are pretty much the same, right? With this electronic age who wants to read a book…right? And if you were running a local library, you could never find volunteers to run it, right?
Lancaster Community Library and this community would challenge all the above statements.
The Lancaster Community Library is unique and special, not only in its beginnings, its founding and funding,
but in its future.

The “Lancaster Community Library Golden Anniversary: The Early Years” states that “Over the years, the Library of Virginia had sponsored bookmobiles for rural areas, some churches had libraries for their members, there was a small library in Irvington that was open on Thursday afternoons, and the Mary Ball Washington Museum had maintained a lending library in the Old Jail in Lancaster Courthouse that was open one day a week. However, there was no library in the county that was available to the public on a regular basis.” Lindsy Gardner, Director of the library, stated that this library is different from its roots up. In 1961 it was founded by volunteers. The “Committee” secured donations of money and books.

The original Lancaster Community Library building was owned by the town and leased to the newly formed board for the yearly fee of $1.00! That building still stands (all 720 feet!) and will be wrapped in a large ribbon for the library’s 50th celebration this year. Once the building was secured, volunteers installed shelves, painted walls, made curtains, cataloged books and staffed the library three afternoons and one evening a week.

How wonderful! How independent! This was and is truly a Community Library. Congressman Howard W. Smith stated in September 25th of that year, “This is a very laudable effort and a refreshing experience that your community should undertake to furnish this necessary facility without seeking help from the Federal Government.”

The Lancaster Community Library is one of only 13 non-profit libraries in the state. One third of their revenue comes from the county/town and state and the rest is from private funds. A fully funded endowment has enabled the library to stay on steady financial ground even in economically challenging times. An enormous amount of strength comes from their volunteers, 100 strong! Perhaps the same “stuff” as the original volunteers. It must be in the water here!

Lindsy, who has been with the library for 3-1/2 years, was lured to Lancaster from Alabama with the hope and love of the uniqueness of small town and a non-profit library. She has listed her biggest surprise as the friendliness of the people. “This is a population that is wonderful to build a collection for. They are well informed and from very diverse backgrounds.” She states “the board supports and embraces new ideas and is packed with energy.” In our area, she finds the competitive, philanthropic marketplace a challenge which pushes the library to perform efficiently.

The library serves a membership of 10,000 and with the population of Lancaster County being 11,000 even with some neighboring counties participating, this is impressive. There are over 50,000 items in the collection and with a 100,000 yearly circulation. This is way above average! This is truly a busy and remarkable place!

Into the Future

Lancaster Community Library is planning big time! Planning is underway for a second technology fair in the fall, Facebook lab, internet security classes for parents, designing websites along with computer language and Cloud technologies. E-Books are offered, the first on the Northern Neck, which allows you to electronically check out books.
They are definitely “bridging the digital divide.”

Recycling is big time here. Water coolers are used to decrease the need for bottled water, paper is recycled as scrap for notes before it hits the bins along with other paper aimed for recycling. Batteries from MP3 audiobook players are recycled as well.

 The children’s librarian, Tonya Carter, has a variety of offerings from reading to dogs, to regular parent/child classes. The need for “MAC computers for the teens to use for film competition is a summer focus.”
And speaking of the future there are big plans, and I do mean BIG!!

To start with, this building is packed, I mean PACKED. They need more space and rooms to keep books, especially in the children’s area. Meetings in the meeting room are currently at capacity and greatly in demand.
The “Sundays at Two” is a presentation of programs of interest to the general public. It is held in the winter from January through March and had a record attendance averaging 90 attendees per program. This greatly stretches the walls of the meeting room.

So from Twiga, the 12 foot, 4 inch giraffe in the front lobby, to the computer usage stations, to the children’s room, to the meeting room this place is growing and changing with the times.
Twiga was made by Davie Hurlbut around 1999. She/he came to live in the lobby of the Library several years ago and is an eye popping addition.

So keep a look out. This remarkable library is changing and growing.

You can see from its presence this place is definitely not just any library—this is the Lancaster Community Library!