The Library of Virginia
in Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...
, is the library
In a traditional sense, a library is a large collection of books, and can refer to the place in which the collection is housed. Today, the term can refer to any collection, including digital sources, resources, and services...
agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia, its archival agency, and the reference library at the seat of government. The Library moved into a new building in 1997 and is located at 800 East Broad Street, 2 blocks from the Virginia State Capitol
The Virginia State Capitol is the seat of state government in the Commonwealth of Virginia, located in Richmond, the third capital of Virginia. It houses the oldest legislative body in the United States, the Virginia General Assembly...
building. It was formerly known as the Virginia State Library and as the Virginia State Library and Archives.
Formally founded by the Virginia General Assembly
The Virginia General Assembly is the legislative body of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere, established on July 30, 1619. The General Assembly is a bicameral body consisting of a lower house, the Virginia House of Delegates, with 100 members,...
in 1823, the Library of Virginia organizes, cares for, and manages the state's collection of books and official records, many of which date back to the early colonial period. It houses what is believed to be the most comprehensive collection of materials on Virginia government, history, and culture available anywhere. Its research collections contain more than 808,500 bound volumes; 678,790 public documents; 410,330 microforms, including 45,684 reels of microfilmed newspapers; 308,900 photographs and other pictorial materials; 101.8 million manuscript items and records; and several hundred thousand prints, broadsides, and newspapers.
Programs and publications
Among the Library's many distinguished publications, exhibitions, and educational programs is the Dictionary of Virginia Biography
The Dictionary of Virginia Biography is a multivolume biographical reference work published by the Library of Virginia covering all aspects of Virginia's history and culture since 1607....
a multivolume reference work documenting the contributions of Virginians to four centuries of local, state, and national history.
Since 1998, the Library of Virginia and the Library of Virginia Foundation have sponsored the annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards honoring outstanding Virginia authors and books about Virginia in the areas of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. They also present annually a lifetime achievement award, whose past recipients are Ellen Glasgow
Ellen Anderson Gholson Glasgow was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist who portrayed the changing world of the contemporary south.-Biography:...
(1998), Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...
(1999), Anne Spencer
Annie Bethel Spencer was an American Black poet and active participant in the New Negro Movement and Harlem Renaissance period....
(2000), Booker T. Washington
Booker Taliaferro Washington was an American educator, author, orator, and political leader. He was the dominant figure in the African-American community in the United States from 1890 to 1915...
(2001), Mary Lee Settle
Mary Lee Settle was an American writer and winner of the National Book Award for her 1978 novel Blood Tie...
(2002), Louis D. Rubin Jr. (2003), George Garrett
George Palmer Garrett. was an American poet and novelist. He was the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2002 to 2006. His novels include The Finished Man, Double Vision, and the Elizabethan Trilogy, composed of Death of the Fox, The Succession, and Entered from the Sun...
(2004), Merrill D. Peterson
Merrill Daniel Peterson was Professor of History at the University of Virginia and the editor of the prestigious Library of America edition of the selected writings of Thomas Jefferson...
(2005), William Styron
William Clark Styron, Jr. was an American novelist and essayist who won major literary awards for his work.For much of his career, Styron was best known for his novels, which included...
(2006), Tom Wolfe
Thomas Kennerly "Tom" Wolfe, Jr. is a best-selling American author and journalist. He is one of the founders of the New Journalism movement of the 1960s and 1970s.-Early life and education:...
(2007), Rita Dove
Rita Frances Dove is an American poet and author. From 1993-1995 she served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a position now popularly known as "U.S. Poet Laureate"...
(2008), John Grisham
John Ray Grisham, Jr. is an American lawyer and author, best known for his popular legal thrillers.John Grisham graduated from Mississippi State University before attending the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981 and practiced criminal law for about a decade...
(2009), Lee Smith (2010), and Earl Hamner, Jr. (2011).
The Library of Virginia sponsors the annual Virginia Women in History
Virginia Women in History is an annual program sponsored by the Library of Virginia that honors eight Virginia women, living and dead, for their contributions to their community, region, state, and nation...
project to honor eight Virginia women, living and dead, who have made extraordinary contributions to the state or to their professions and also the annual African American Trailblazers in Virginia project.
History of the institution
Although the Library of Virginia was officially established in 1823, its history goes back to the collection of materials acquired for official use by the colonial Council and subsequent colonial and state authorities. The first permanent home of the Library was a small room on the top floor of the State Capitol. The state’s books and records eventually outgrew this space, and overflow books and documents were then stored in several rented locations across Richmond. In 1892, the General Assembly provided for a new State Library on Capitol Square in what is today known as the Oliver Hill Building. Over the ensuing forty years, the Library again outgrew that building, and in 1940 it moved to its third location at the edge of Capitol Square between 11th and Governor Streets (today the Patrick Henry Executive Office Building). It shared this space with the State Law Library, the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, the Virginia Department of Law, and the Office of the Attorney General. The Library moved to its current location at 800 East Broad Street in 1997.
State Librarians of Virginia
During the nineteenth century, Secretaries of the Commonwealth usually oversaw the state library as part of their official duties.
- John Pendleton Kennedy, 1903–1907
- Henry Read McIlwaine, 1907–1934
- Wilmer L. Hall, 1934–1946
- Randolph Warner Church, 1947–1972
- Donald Rucker Haynes, 1972–1986
- Ella Gaines Yates, 1986–1990
- John C. Tyson, 1990–1994
- Nolan T. Yelitch, 1995–2007
- Sandra Gioia Treadway, 2007–present
- Sandra Gioia Treadway and Edward D. C. Campbell Jr., eds. The Common Wealth: Treasures from the Collection of the Library of Virginia. Richmond: The Library of Virginia, 1997. ISBN 0884901858.
- Trenton E. Hizer, comp., Guide to the Personal Papers Collection at the Library of Virginia. Richmond: The Library of Virginia, 2008. ISBN 0884902080.