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On November 30, 1900 a group of civic-minded women founded the "Women’s Library Association of Bedford", starting with a two-room office building located on the present Bridge Street site of the Bedford Central Library. This modest library grew steadily over the next 100 years, and now serves as the headquarters of the Bedford Public Library System, a modern regional library serving Bedford City and County.

The library is the oldest publicly-supported, continuously operating public library in any of the communities surrounding Bedford County, and is one of the oldest public libraries in Virginia. From the beginning the library attracted a remarkable amount of usage and support from the progressive community it serves. Even through years of tight budgets and cramped quarters, the library maintained a reputation for excellence in customer service, quality of collections and children’s programming and for usage by residents of the City and County.

Throughout the 1980's and 90's the library benefitted from cooperation between Bedford City and County in establishing a regional library, as well as from public/private funding partnerships. This regional cooperation and community support have made it possible to establish modern facilities, collections and services throughout the City and County. The following timeline tracks the library’s first 100 years of service.

 

November 30, 1900 Women's Library Association of Bedford founded, and library was established in a two-room office building on Bridge Street. Initial subscription rate was $1.00.
1914 Original building expanded.
1941 Association shares cost of construction of new library with Town of Bedford. Following years of increasing financial support from the Town of Bedford, the Association votes to transfer its assets to the Town. New building constructed next to the old building, which is moved and used as residence.
1942 New building opened to public. The first building built as a library in the Bedford area, it served until 1993, when it closed for renovation and expansion.
1950's The Bedford Public Library develops a reputation for excellence in the state, based on financial support, patron registration, collection size and circulation figures.
1968 Following years of discussion of the critical space needs of the library and possible plans for expansion, the City purchases the Louise Wharton house next door. This historic house serves as the Childrens' Library from 1969 until 1995.
1969 Bedford County and City of Bedford sign library services contract to share operating costs based on patron registration figures.
1970's Forest, Moneta and Huddleston library stations open; Huddleston later closes. Library space needs become critical again.
1981 Bedford County and the City of Bedford sign a contract to establish a regional library system.
1982 Big Island, Montvale and Stewartsville stations open; Montvale later closes.
1984 Book van services begins.
1987 Forest station moves to new, larger location and becomes first Branch.
1989 New bookmobile is placed in service.
1988 Bedford Public Library Foundation, Inc. established to raise and receive funds for construction of Big Island library facility.
1989 Moneta station moves to larger quarters and becomes Branch. Big Island Branch library is built by students at Bedford Educational Center and placed on campus of Big Island Elementary School. The Big Island Branch of the Bedford Public Library opens to the public on October 15, 1989. Construction and furnishing is funded by public - private partnership, including Bedford County, local businesses and individuals.
1991 Stewartsville station moves to larger facility and becomes Branch.
1991 Bedford Public Library Foundation, Inc. begins capital fund raising campaign for construction of new library in Bedford.
1993 Construction begins on new library in Bedford, to encompass, renovate and greatly expand the 1942 building.
May, 1995 Library board adopts new name and logo, containing a stylized representation of the 1942 building and the words "Bedford Public Library System" in contemporary outward-facing type.
July, 1995 The 26,500 square foot, $2.4 million Bedford Central Library opens to the public. Funding is from City of Bedford, a small federal grant and over $600,000 raised by the Bedford Public Library Foundation, Inc. from individual and corporate donors. The greatly expanded facility also serves as the headquarters of the Bedford Public Library System, housing Administration, Technical Services, Outreach and the Bookmobile, as well as Adult Services, Youth Services and Circulation.
November, 1995 To address critical space needs caused by rapid population growth, Bedford County voters approve a $7.1 million bond referendum to construct or renovate libraries in Big Island, Forest, Moneta, Montvale and Stewartsville. The plans include funds for opening day collections and state-of-the-art information technology, including public Internet access.
January, 1999 The 3,000 square foot Montvale Library, renovated in part of the former Montvale Elementary School, opens to reestablish public library service in the Montvale community.
May, 1999 The renovated and expanded 2,245 s.f. Big Island Library reopens to the public.
June, 1999 The new 10,220 s.f. Forest Library opens to the public.
August, 1999 The new 3,220 s.f. Stewartsville Library opens to the public.
September, 1999 The new 10,220 s.f. Moneta/Smith Mountain Lake Library opens to the public, completing a 46 month expansion project that resulted in a 454% increase in the size of county library facilities.
November 30, 2000 The Bedford Public Library System turns 100 and the community comes out to the library to celebrate.
1903

Winifrid (Winnie) Huddleston is shown on the front steps of the original Bedford Library building on Bridge Street in this c1903 photograph, taken when she was about 15. This shows the building in its original configuration, prior to its 1914 expansion.

Miss Huddleston, daughter of Bedford Sheriff Peter Lee Huddleston, later married Mac Johnson and moved to Moneta. She died at age 93. According to her son Pete T. Johnson and her daughter-in-law Claudine Johnson, Winnie liked the library, was proud of the picture and kept a copy.

1941

This c1941 photo shows the original library building from the South. It is partially dismantled, and the 1914 expansion has been removed. The triangular-shaped front portico of the 1941 building is visible just beyond the original frame building, which was moved to another location and used as a residence.

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Last Updated: December 2007
321 N. Bridge Street
Bedford, VA 24523
540-586-8911