Thoughts From County Native and Arlington Public Library Director, Diane Kresh
In accepting this award, we, the staff of Arlington Public Library, are simply building on the groundwork laid by the remarkable women of Arlington in the early days of the 20th century. They had no money, no books, no knowledge of library procedures. But what they did have was vision, heart and moxie. Operating out of spaces scrounged from likely and unlikely places–a double garage, a school, a storefront, the second floor of a bank, a venerable town hall, a fire house–these mighty women, known variously as the Cherrydale League of Women Voters, the Women’s Civic Club of Clarendon, the Arlington Community Club, the Jefferson District Women’s Club, the Library Committee of the Aurora Hills Garden Club grew Arlington Public Library one book and one building at a time.
And they were not afraid of doing it for themselves.
When a roof leaked over a circulation desk at one location, they plugged the hole with blotter paper. When they needed money for books and supplies, they baked and sponsored lectures. When the properties their libraries were housed in sold, they packed and took their shows down the road, to other locations.
In 1937, “the libraries” became a department within the County government with an annual budget of $3500 and a newly minted trained librarian. The goal was to begin to create the system of seven branches plus Central we enjoy today. Mrs. Nat Hynes, Mrs. Fred A. Lyons, Mrs. Frances V. Speek, Mrs. C.C. Nikiforoff and many others, hometown heroes whose names you won’t come across in the standard history texts, but whose collective will and determination speaks volumes. Ms. Robert Livingston summed it up best when she said in an article that appeared in the Washington Star in 1938: “Where there’s a woman’s will in a good cause, she generally finds the way, if she refuses to become discouraged.” I think it’s safe to say that this was a bunch of women who did not get discouraged.
The facts in this brief entry are courtesy of the Virginia Room of the Arlington Public Library, a treasure trove of Arlington’s unsung heroes if there ever was one. So if you are reading this, thank a librarian.And thanks for learning with us.
See you again soon.