History of the Bedford Public Library System

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 library system serving Bedford 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.

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.
July, 2004 Bookmobile service is discontinued.
November, 2004 Forest Library receives the NASA/ALA visiting exhibit.
November, 2004 Wireless Internet is available at Bedford Central Library.
March, 2007 Wireless Internet is available at Forest and Moneta/SML Libraries.
April, 2007 RFID Self-Checkout begins at Forest Library.
July, 2007 E-mail notification of holds and overdue notices implemented system wide.
September, 2007 Wireless Internet is available at the Big Island, Montvale, and Stewartsville Libraries.
May, 2008 Bedford Central Library's first-floor re-design completed. Changes included:
  • New flooring,
  • Combining the circulation and reference desks into one centralized library services desk,
  • Moving the public access computers,
  • Implementing CASSIE, a self-checkout system for the public access computers, and
  • Opening a self-service cafe. (This portion of the re-design was fully funded by the Bedford Public Library System Foundation, Inc.)
December, 2008 implement new systemwide telephone system.
January, 2009 A re-design of the Forest Library results in the public services desk being moved to the center of the floor and the opening of a self-service cafe. The cafe was funded in part by the Friends of the Forest Library.
January, 2009 Receive the NEH Picturing America award grant. Picturing America is a new educational initiative from the National Endowment for the Humanities that brings great American art directly to classroom and library learning to provide an innovative way for citizens of all ages to explore the history, character, and ideals of America through our nation’s art.
November, 2009 Implement automatic calling system as an option for notification of holds and overdues.
September, 2010 Receive additional programming NEH grant in conjunction with the Picturing America grant to bring batteau boat programs to libraries.
Spring, 2011 Implement Overdrive system for checking out ebooks and audiobooks.
November, 2011 Begin sharing materials with Campbell County Public Library System, significantly increasing the number of books available to our patrons.
November, 2011 Moneta/Smith Mountain Lake Library's self-service cafe opens, with the assistance of the Moneta Friends of the Library.
November, 2011

Bedford Central Library is awarded "a very close second place" in the Intellectual Freedom Committee's annual Banned Book Display competition.

Spring, 2012

RFID self-checkout begins at Bedford Central Library. All library branches begin accepting credit card payments for library fines.

September, 2012

The Forest Rotary Club presents Forest Library with a grant to purchase ereaders to circulate to patrons. The Friends of Montvale Library also give money to purchase ereaders for Montvale.

Spring and Summer, 2013

Patrons begin accessing electronic magazines through Zinio, the summer reading program goes online, and the Moneta/SML Library begins RFID self-checkout.

Fall, 2013

Scanning is now available to patrons of the Bedford Public Library System.