Waynesboro received a Carnegie Foundation grant for a library building in 1915. The Carnegie library building at 11th and Chestnut served Waynesboro well and faithfully for decades, but by the 1960’s, the library building was not adequate to meet the needs of a booming community. A joint survey by the Association of University Women and the League of Women Voters revealed a general sense of dissatisfaction with library services in town. The survey findings were not without some controversy, but they did crystallize into two positive developments. First, the move to build a new and more extensive library at its present site on Wayne Avenue. Second, the impetus to form the Friends of the Waynesboro Public Library as a free-standing organization to provide both financial support and volunteer help for the library and more importantly, the expanded operation of the new library.
On February 8, 1966, the Friends of the Waynesboro Public Library held its first meeting in the social hall of the Main Street Methodist Church where the Constitution was presented and officers were elected, including Henry Gayek (president), Edward Dinwiddie (vice president), Lois Perry (secretary), and Marion Plette (treasurer). Other members of the board were Barbara Bohmfalk (nominations), Janet Foster (programs), Carol Gates (publicity), and Barbara Hitchcock (membership). Early organizers included many from the professional ranks of General Electric and DuPont. For example, the Friends’ constitution was prepared by the General Electric local patent counsel.
The formation of the Friends was accompanied by a surge of enthusiasm that was reported in the extensive press coverage of the time. Reading the back issues of the News Virginian, one learns of the numerous organizing coffees and teas that preceded the Friends first membership drive. The Friends divided the town into districts, appointed a captain for each district and ultimately unleashed 175 volunteers–all women–to conduct a door-to-door membership campaign. There were 1,177 regular members, 69 patron members, 8 life members, and 5 organization members. Regular dues were $1 and the sum of over $2,800 in dues and contributions was collected that year. The first memorial fund was set up in the memory of J. G. Dinwiddie, long time member of the Library’s Board of Trustees.
The major features of the Friends’ work today–fundraising and volunteer support–can be traced directly back to these early days. Early donations from the Friends to the Library totaled $1,588, allowing purchases ranging from a record player to a microfilm reader. In 1966, the Friends conducted a book drive to replace worn volumes and provide duplicate copies of books at the library. The first books contributed by the organization to the Library’s collection were Chronicles of America, a 56-volume set.
The remarkable energy and dedication of the founding Friends is demonstrated by the fact that the organization had fifteen subcommittees with 58 members. Some of the committees included Shut-ins, Book Reviews, School Publicity, Story Hour, Typing and, by far the largest committee with 28 members, Summer Reading Program. In 1973, the Volunteer Services Program began under the leadership of Connie Rader. Over its first three decades, the number of volunteers in any given year varied from five to sixty.
In 1983, the first Book Sale was held September in the Library’s garage with tables borrowed from a local church. A few years later, shelves started appearing in the garage. Later, when the Library decided to dispose of films, projectors, and LPs, the Book Sale expanded to the Library’s programming room where it has remained. Today the Book Sale has become a major money raiser with sums in five figures. Books are conveniently arranged by subject matter, a convenience that delights many sale goers. There’s also a preview day exclusively for Friends’ members.
In 1990, the Friends assisted with converting the Library to an automated circulation system that used bar codes. Volunteers who went the extra mile with were Krispy and Dick Wolke, Gina and Kirk Snell, Dot and Al Foss, Julia Goodrich, Anne Harris, and Anne Saum to name a few. On July 14, the Friends helped celebrate the 75th anniversary of Waynesboro Public Library. Citizens who remembered the original dedication of the Carnegie Library in 1915 were part of the ceremony and program underwritten in part, by generous donations. (The old building is now part of the Fishburne Military School)
In 1991, the Friends received The Friends Achievement Award from Virginia Library Association, accepting by past President Marvin Stoner. The award cited the support the Friends offered when the Library moved to its new location when it expanded, when it celebrated its 75th anniversary and in automating.
In 2010, the Friends provided $10,000 to plan a renovation of the library building. In 2013, the Friends donated $227,000, with $167,000 coming from the Branch-Out capital campaign, to pay for the children’s furnishings, bookshelves and other aspects of the renovation. In, 2014, the Friends once again received the Friends Achievement Award from the Virginia Library Association. On July 14, 2015, the Waynesboro Public Library celebrated its 100th anniversary. For 49 of those 100 years, the Friends of the Library organization has supported the library as it, in turn, has served the Waynesboro Community. We continue today to raise funds and provide volunteer services that support and sustain an outstanding public library in our community of Waynesboro.