Thoughts from County Native and Arlington Public Library Director, Diane Kresh
Saunders was director of the Arlington Public Library from 1980 to 1986. She was named acting director in 1979 following her service as assistant director beginning in 1957.
Saunders’ predecessor, Jane B. Nida, described Saunders as “my right arm” during a tenure in which Arlington Public Library became a widely popular system, opening the County’s first Central Library and building new facilities for all six of its branches.
Under Saunders’ direction, the Library system made a strong push in areas of technology—establishing the use of anti-theft devices for materials; a computer-aided database research system; equipment and reference services for the blind and deaf ; and an early computer catalogue network.
Saunders oversaw growth in the Library’s historic document collection, as its Virginia Room became the repository for a widespread “Search and Save Drive” in partnership with the Arlington County Historical Commission. Saunders also made the difficult decision for the Library to emboss its logo on rare book plates in the Virginia Room collection to ward off theft and mutilation.
In 1980, Arlington Public Library joined the reciprocal borrowing program sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Non-residents no longer had to pay $10 per year for an Arlington card and Arlingtonians were able to obtain public library privileges in the District, Falls Church, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Prince George’s and Montgomery County.
During Saunders’s tenure, the County re-examined pay scales for library staff compared to other systems in the region. It also became known that Saunders, the only woman heading a department in the County, was being paid less than her male peers.
Born in Roanoke, Va. in 1917, Saunders was a longtime resident of Alexandria, Va. She was an alumnus of Columbia University and former president of the Virginia Library Association.
There will be a graveside service at Evergreen Burial Park at 1307 Summit Avenue S.W. Roanoke on July 15 at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers donations in her memory can be made to the Old Presbyterian House at 323 S. Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.
Jane Nida once called her assistant and future successor as “the best book-selector I’ve ever known.” She was also “a real Virginia gentlewoman.”