Skip to:Bottom

Alexandria Library Timeline -- 1794 - Present


1794-1937 1937 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s   1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s



July 24, 1794

Alexandria Library established as subscription institution by Alexandria Library Company. They charge an annual fee of $5. Edward Stabler voted first secretary and librarian and James Muir elected president.

Books probably were housed in the back room of Stabler’s Apothecary Shop



James Kennedy appointed librarian



Library is incorporated. First catalog published, which listed the holdings in the hundreds.



Collection moved to the New Market House, adjacent to City Hall

William G. Cranch apppointed librarian



George Drinker appointed librarian. John Leadbeater appointed assistant librarian and “Guardian of the Reading Room.”



Library housed in The Lyceum



Norval E. Foard named librarian



The “Young Men of the Town” Society takes over management of the Library Company



Circulation: 3,000

Volumes: 4,481



The City of Alexandria occupied during the Civil War and the Lyceum used as Federal hospital. Books housed in homes of Alexandria Library Company members.



Library housed at the Alexandria Christian Association



August Hening appointed librarian



Emma J. Young appointed librarian



Books moved several different times to various locations along King Street



Alexandria Library Association forms and collection relocated to the Peabody Building



August Hening appointed librarian



Alice Green appointed librarian



Library moved to Robert E. Lee Camp Hall at 806 Prince Street



City Manager sets aside $1,000 for the establishment of a free public library

Back to Top 


January 28, 1937

President of the Board Mary Powell Scott and Secretary Mary B. Smoot authorized to sign contract agreement between Dr. and Mrs. Robert Barrett, The Society of Friends, the Alexandria Library Association, and the City Council of the City of Alexandria for a library building.



February 22, 1937

Corner stone laid for the new library building


August 20, 1937

The first Alexandria Free Public Library opens at 717 Queen Street. Dr. Robert SBarrett Library 1937outh Barrett donates funds to erect the library in memory of his mother, Dr. Kate Waller Barrett, a humanitarian, social crusader, and political reformer. The Society of Friends grants a 99-year lease for use of its old Quaker Burial Ground on Queen Street as the site for the new building.


The Library Company signs an agreement with the Alexandria City Council, turning over its collections to the city. In turn, the city agrees to include operating expenses for the public library in its budget. First year’s budget is $5,000.


A Library Board is established, including three members of the Association (“The Company”), two members appointed by the Mayor, and two members of the City Council


Beatrice Workman appointed transitional librarian



Catherine Scoggins appointed librarian

Circulation: 71,953; Cardholders: 3,781; Volumes: 5,535



August 21, 1939

Sit-in at segregated Alexandria Library leads to the arrest of five African American men

Back to Top




April 22, 1940

Robert Robinson Library, named for a grandson of one of George Washington’s slaves, opens for black residents at 638 N. Alfred Street (now the Alexandria Black History Museum)

Evelyn Roper Beam appointed librarian



Hazel Miller appointed librarian of Robert Robinson Library



Barrett Library 1948

Sara Murphy Carr appointed librarian of Robert Robinson Library



Circulation: 110,371



An amendment to the charter states that the Library Board is required to present its annual budget to the City Council



Ellen Coolidge Burke appointed Director of Alexandria Library

Minnie Fuller appointed Librarian of Robert Robinson Library

Back to Top

 Barrett Library 1947 


Circulation: 156,700



Addition built on Barrett Library: Floor space: 12,200 sq. ft.

Cardholders: 21,875; Volumes: 52,708



Circulation: 267,115


1958Bookmobile 1972

Jeanne G. Plitt appointed librarian

Library gifted 800 volume book collection on Virginia history and the Lee family by Cazenove G. Lee, Jr.

Back to Top




The Library begins bookmobile service



May 11, 1962

Robert Robinson Library closes


1964 Barrett Circulation Desk 1965

Addition built on Barrett Library: Floor space: 14,600 sq. ft.



Circulation: 367,583



Ellen Coolidge Burke Branch Library opens on Seminary Road: Floor space: 17,874

Bookmobile discontinues service



James M. Duncan, Jr. Branch Library opens on Commonwealth Avenue: Floor space: 9,600 sq. ft.

Jeanne G. Plitt appointed Director.

Back to Top



An amendment to the charter states that three members of Board are citizens-at-large and one member from City Council

 Burke Branch Library 1970s


Cardholders: 75,565

Volumes: 222,979



Library leases the Lloyd House for its local history and rare books, manuscripts, and archives. Floor space: 7,500 sq. ft.

Back to Top Children at Apple II computer, Burke Library, circa 1983




Needs Assessment Study by King Research Company calls for “a new community library in the western end of the city,” as well as the remodeling of Barrett Library and additions to the branches.



In October, the Library automates its catalog with GEAC. All library books are barcoded in a project that took a year to complete


1984-1985Children at reading table at Duncan Library, circa 1983

Friends of the Library groups established for each branch



Bookmobile service reinstated

Young Adult services added for ages 12-16

Library catalog is automated

Back to Top



A new advocacy group, the Friends of the Alexandria Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, is formed



Patrick O’Brien appointed Director



Two free internet computers available at Burke Branch.

In May, Barrett Library closes for renovation. Mini library is established in South front room of Llyod House.

End of the 16mm film service and VHS are relocated to the branches.



September 10, 1995

Barrett Library reopens, with four free internet computers available for patrons. The addition included the preservation and reinterment of original graves on the grounds of the Library.

 Quaker Burial Ground 1784 


March, 14, 1996

The Library’s first website goes live



A new web-based catalog system, GeoWeb was released.



Alexandria Library Foundation chartered



November 15, 1999

250th anniversary of the founding of Alexandria

Time capsule buried behind Beatley Branch, including the following items: letters from Jefferson-Houston Elementary School Students, City officials, and state and federal representatives; photographs of Alexandria buildings and streets; local artwork; brochures from City departments; statistics from Alexandria City schools; programs from local churches and synagogues; print-outs of City website home pages; and various pop culture artifacts.

Cardholders: 101,951; Volumes: 389,260

Bookmobile service ended in September

Back to Top


2000 Beatley Central Library

January - Barrett closes for renovation to add Local History department. It reopens on March 20, 2000

On January 31, 2000 Charles E. Beatley, Jr., Central Library opens on Duke Street

November - Burke closes for renovations

CDs and DVDs are added to the system for circulation



March 4, 2002

Burke reopens



James M. Duncan, Jr. Library Foundation incorporated on July 30



Duncan closes in mid-August 2004 for renovation, then moves to a storefront at 3809 Mt. Vernon Avenue

Beatley began providing free WiFi internet access

 Duncan Branch Library

September 22, 2005

Duncan Library reopens, the first City of Alexandria government building to have a green roof

Alexandria Library begins offering downloadable audiobooks through the online catalog via Overdrive

WiFi internet access is expanded to all branches



Beatley Central Library receives City Beautification Award

In coorperation with the Burke Friends of the Library and the art students from the Hammond Middle School, a six panel mural of famous citizens of Alexandria was unveiled and dedicated on the back wall of the branch's parking lot. The six celebrated were George Washington, Francis C. Hammond, Mayor Bill Euille, State Senator Patsy Ticer, former T. C. Williams High School football coach, Herman Boone, and former Director and community leader, Ellen Coolidge Burke.



Library circulates one million items in April 2007 (1,041,589)

Alexandria Library collaborates with The Foundation Center as a Regional Cooperating Collection: a large collection of Foundation Center print and online resources, including online training, are located at the Barrett. Foundation and Grant classes, arranged by Barrett staff, are offered to patrons.



Rose T. Dawson is appointed the first African-American Director of Alexandria Library

All Alexandria Reads” program starts with the book “Marley and Me” by John Grogan

Through an ongoing partnership with Hammond Elementary School, Burke Library hung 4 more murals of famous Alexandrians.



70th Anniversary of Alexandria Library Civil Rights Sit-In. During the 70th Anniversary Celebration, students from Samuel Tucker re-enacted the sit-in, Vice Mayor Kerry Donley read a Proclamation, and members of the media took pictures of the student re-enacting the photograph of the original young men being escorted from the library by police.

Beatley Central installs two self-check out machines to help eliminate the long check out lines



In January 2010 the National Park Service (NPS) announced that the Special Collections Branch had been selected to join the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. This national program includes vetted places, resources and repositories for people studying the Underground Railroad. The Alexandria Library, Special Collections Division is one of three sites in Alexandria to be accepted by NPS and one of a handful of libraries to make the list.

Kate Waller Barrett Day is celebrated on May 20, 2010

Alexandria Library begins offering downloadable ebooks through the online catalog via Overdrive



The Alexandria Library chosen to be Technology Zookeepers for Library of Virginia Region 5

In June 2011 Duncan Branch installs a self-check out machine



In March 2012, the Virginia General Assembly legislated Senate Joint Resolution No. 231, which commends the Alexandria Library on the occasion of its 75th anniversary. 

In April 2012 Barrett Branch and Burke Branch installs self-check out machines

Special Collections staff authors the book Alexandria (Images of America), a pictorial history of the City of Alexandria, using vintage photographs and original documents to show how a small colonial town grew into a modern city. Set for release on July 2, 2012.

Solar panels are installed at Beatley Central Library

Alexandria Library celebrates its 75th anniversary as a public library on August 20, 2012

Back to Top

Go to:Top of Page