New library heralds era of growth in Western Albemarle

The new Crozet Library stands at more than 18,300 square feet, and will be open to the public this fall. Photo: Laura Ingles The new Crozet Library stands at more than 18,300 square feet, and will be open to the public this fall. Photo: Laura Ingles

After years of discussion, planning, and vigorous fundraising, construction of the new Crozet Library, a big step in the effort to expand the town’s downtown area, is nearing completion. The two-story building on Crozet Avenue still smells like sawdust, but the power tools and paint cans will soon be replaced by 70,000 books and more than 30 computers. Construction is on schedule to be complete this summer, with an expected grand opening in September.

“It’s really a symbol of the infrastructure that the county needed to provide in one of its most rapidly growing growth areas,” said Albemarle County Supervisor Ann Mallek. “I’ve seen really impoverished little communities get their act together and build a library, and it changes their lives.”

Change has already come to Crozet. The small town just west of Charlottesville has seen a significant influx of recent development, with more than 4,000 new dwelling units planned between 2004 and 2007. About half of those units have been built thus far, Mallek said, which has doubled the town’s population in less than 10 years. The library in the 1,700 square foot former train station isn’t cutting it anymore.

“The new facility is not going to be an empty place of books,” Mallek said. “It will be a hopping place full of reading programs.”

The new library, an 18,300 square foot building with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking an unobstructed view of the mountains, will feature large sections for children, adults, and teenagers, computer stations, a fireplace, a self-checkout counter, and separate rooms designated for studying, conferences, and meetings. Outside, the parking lot will accommodate more than 50 vehicles. Mallek said she hopes the library’s location will encourage visitors to park and then walk the block to Mudhouse and other businesses downtown, and said libraries are often the core of small but growing towns.

The County covered the cost of the $5.8 million building, and the community has taken on the responsibility of raising money for books, shelves, computers, and other furniture and equipment. According to Fundraising Committee Chair Bill Schrader, they’ve raised about $750,000 thus far from community events, local groups and Dave Matthews’ BAMA Works Fund, and are still actively seeking donations of both money and books.

The fundraising committee is less than halfway to its goal of $1.6 million, but Schrader and Jefferson-Madison Regional Library Director John Halliday said they have faith in the community’s ability and desire to fill in the gap, as the discussion about a new library began more than 20 years ago. In the final stretch, they’re asking people to help fill the shelves by browsing the Crozet Library Wish List on Amazon, which includes dozens of titles for all ages.

But in growing Crozet, the library is about more than books. Unemployed residents without computer access can use the free Internet for job hunting, children will stop by during the summer for reading programs, and the facility will be available for emergencies like last year’s severe storms.

“Libraries are a community meeting site now,” Schrader said.