Richmond Public Library History
Richmond Public Library was founded by civic-minded leaders in the early 1900s. The establishment of a public library for Richmond residents took several tries. Originally approached by Mr. Andrew Carnegie in 1901, community leaders and advocates founded the Richmond Public Library Association in 1905 and built support for a locally-funded library.
City Council formed a library board in 1923 and secured the former home of Major Lewis Ginter for the first public library building. The library opened at 901 W. Franklin Street in 1924. In 1925, details of the will of Mrs. Sallie May Dooley became public. Among her charitable gifts, she left $500,000 to the City to purchase a site and to build and equip a public library in memory of her husband, Major James H. Dooley. The site of the current Main Library was chosen in 1927 and the building was completed and dedicated in 1930.
Over the decades, Richmond Public Library expanded with community support to include bookmobile service and eight other locations. The bookmobile and a kiosk site on Broad Street were eventually closed, the nine library buildings continue to serve their neighborhoods and all residents of the City of Richmond, as well as residents of surrounding areas.
Modernization and expansion was initiated to the Main Library in 1967. The Library reopened in 1972. The two-story addition and new facade wrapped around the original Dooley Library, which is preserved as the Dooley Wing.
In 2007, Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder announced his plans for “City of the Future,” to provide needed infrastructure improvements to City facilities. $7,000,000 over five years is targeted for library capital improvement projects and upgrades. These monies have been used to complete renovations or new buildings at Main, Westover Hills, Belmont, North Avenue, East End, Broad Rock, and Hull Street. Ginter Park’s renovation was completed in 2016 and rededicated on June 28, 2016. West End Library’s renovation began in June 2016 and will be reopened in 2017.
A separate grant-funded project began in 2016 to expand the Main Library, create a Makerspace, and a dedicated teen space among other renovations. Watch us to see how we grow over the next couple of years.
We look forward to continuing to expand services and access to all citizens of the City of Richmond.
(Need to learn more about us? Read our complete history.)