Glen Allen Branch Library: An Expanded Definition of Library




As Henrico Libraries turn 50 this year, here at Glen Allen Branch Library we’re celebrating our community’s past and our place in it. Thanks to the Friends of Glen Allen Library, prints of scenes from old Glen Allen have been newly framed and hung. We’ll celebrate their arrival at an event on Saturday, November 18 at 2:00 p.m. That afternoon, artist Edith Schermerhorn will make brief remarks about her prints, and local history expert Bob Lehr will speak about the Glen Allen community. Refreshments will follow, provided by the Friends of Glen Allen Library.

While the Glen Allen community and its beloved school have created a sense of place for generations, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the population in this part of the county warranted a public library. An early advocate for a public library branch in the northwest section of the county was Brookland District supervisor Richard Glover; he remained a strong supporter of and good friend to Henrico Libraries until his death earlier this year. Henrico voters indicated their approval for a new building project when they voted for a bond referendum in 1989. Construction of the 12,000 square foot building began in the last half of 1994 and was completed the next year. The Richmond Times-Dispatch described the August 7, 1995, opening this way: “More than 400 people joined about 25,000 books last week for the dedication ceremony and grand opening of the Glen Allen Library….The library, which is organized around a high central space, accommodates print and electric media. A public access computer center will feature computer classes and electronic research.”(1) As Supervisor Glover pointed out in remarks about the library in 1996, “Literacy, of course, no longer means just reading and writing. It also encompasses computer proficiency and an understanding of automated systems. Glen Allen Library was designed with this expanded definition of literacy in mind.”(2)

After just 10 years, rapid growth in the area indicated the need for a larger library and so plans to renovate were included in a 2005 bond referendum which voters again passed. PSA-Dewberry designed the current building and doubled the size to 25,000 square feet. The refurbished building maintained the craftsman-style details of the smaller building; it reopened in October 2010. During the expansion, many energy saving and environmentally friendly changes were incorporated, earning the library Silver Certification in the U.S. Green Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. We’re proud that Glen Allen Library is Henrico County’s first general government facility that attained a LEED designation.

Whether old building or new, Glen Allen Library has always had interesting features beyond the book, movie, and magazine collections. The 1995 building had Henrico Library’s first computer lab with 10 personal computer running early Microsoft programs, and with Encarta and World Book encyclopedias available in CD-ROM format. To use the “Computers 4U” lab, patrons needed to present their library card and “demonstrate a knowledge of microcomputers or complete an orientation given by a staff member.”(3) The National Association of Counties presented Henrico Libraries with an Achievement Award for the innovation shown in making computers available to its citizens.

An unusual feature of Glen Allen Branch that was retained after the expansion is our time capsule, which you can find at the front of the library between the courtyard gate and the entrance. We look forward to opening it on August 7, 2045! You can learn more about it – spoiler alert: the contents are listed! – on this page. Two special features of the new building are our gas fireplace, which creates a cozy feel to a sizable building, and the Founding Fathers collection. Inspired by Supervisor Glover, the Founding Fathers section presents multimedia items for all reading levels on the founding of the United States. The collection ranges from picture books to works such as The Papers of Thomas Jefferson which are used by researchers. A reproduction of John Trumball’s 1819 painting “The Declaration of Independence” demarcates the section housing the Founding Fathers collection.

Whether you’re looking back to the founding of the country ,or deeper back in time; whether you’re thinking about the real 2045 future when we’ll open a time capsule, or a speculative future depicted by your favorite novelist, Glen Allen Library’s been meeting your research and recreational needs with media and the most modern electronic formats for 22 years.



(1) Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Newest Library Opens,” August 16, 1995.

(2) Glover, Richard, “Remarks … Time Capsule Placement Ceremony.” 1996 (typescript in library collection)

(3) Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Library Branch Computer Lab is Open for You,” May 8, 1996).