Library with a view: Crozet's new bibliothèque de luxe

Years in the works before ground was ever broken— and funding found— the new Crozet Library is set to open in a few weeks, and Jefferson Madison Regional Director John Halliday gave the Hook a sneak preview of the brick, stone, wood, and glass facility that's destined to be the town's community center.

One reason we can predict that: its size. At 23,000 square feet, it's one of the largest structures in Crozet, and with its conference rooms and multiple meeting rooms that can be reserved by the public for free, even the Hook may be scheduling a meeting there.

Critics are already questioning why a small town such as Crozet needs the 18,000-square-foot library space that occupies the main floor, especially after making do for decades with the current 1,728-square-foot train station. Halliday is ready for that one, and explains that Virginia has standards for libraries. "This one just meets the state's minimum standards for the population it serves," he says. "It seems huge, but it really isn't."

Inside the tiled two-story atrium, Halliday notes that the county got a good deal for the $5.8-million LEED structure by bidding it out during the recession. However, everything inside must be paid for from fundraising. So far, library lovers have donated over $900,000 to furnish, equip, and stock the shelves with books. Among the most generous supporters, the Dave Matthews Band's Bama Works, the Perry Foundation, and Friends of the Library have each contributed $100K. Other donations have ranged from $5 to $25,000.

Halliday points to where the as-yet-uninstalled semi-circular circulation desk will sit, made of local wood by local woodworker Dan Hunt. There's also the self-help option for reserved material and self-checkout.

Our favorite feature inside the new library is the fireplace. Near the huge windows on Crozet Avenue looking out at Blue Ridge Mountain views, it's a place where we kind of want to curl up with a glass of wine. As resorty as the new library feels, alas, there's no bar, but the meditative reading area along those giant front windows will include rocking chairs for staring out into the blue distance. "I don't know of a library with a better view," observes Halliday.

The shelves are being installed the day we're there, and Halliday explains that they're slanted so the staff can keep an eye on things, just in case you were thinking of doing something inappropriate in the stacks.

Of course, the 75,000-book-capacity shelves will be half bare. "We'll only have about 40,000 when we move in," says Halliday. That's where private donations will have to come in, and for those who want to contribute, offers options, including the library's wish list on Amazon.

Moving around the perimeter of the main floor, the teen area is next with comfy chairs ready to be unwrapped. Halliday assures that older, pervy types trying to hang out there will be discouraged from doing so.

Ditto, we assume, for the children's area and its "early literacy room" to keep the preschoolers corralled.

The large, 68-capacity meeting room has a small kitchen, and would be great for reserving for a party, except for the aforementioned alcohol strictures.

But there's one rule that could be on its way out: the prohibition against food and drink in the library. Halliday notes that Alderman Library and Barnes & Noble seem to be thriving despite coffee shops on premises, and he says the new Northside Library will have space for a cafe.

And after all, he says, people take books home where they're eating and drinking all over the place.

Downstairs will be a visitors center, and there's a 3,000-square-foot space the county wants to rent out. Maybe a bar?

The Crozet Library will open for the book-lending business on September 4. And while movers will take the bulk of the books, a citizen book brigade on August 27 will hand one book at a time in a line from the old library to the new. The official ribbon-cutting will be at 10am September 28.

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No doubt about it, this is one SWEET building. I took a self conducted tour while my car was under the tender care of Jimmy Quick, whose auto repair business is just a minute or 2 away. Has I been wearing a tool belt or a hard hat, I might have survived longer than I did, before alert workers invited me to leave for my own safety.

But in the 15 minutes I was pretending to look like I knew what I was doing, I saw much, and it was ALL good. And what one sees in brick and mortar, neatly laced wiring and fine wood is reflected in the expression of the workers - they KNOW they have done a good thing and are proud of the work.

I fell into conversation with one of them, who was hand fitting something, and asked this question: "If you could find one thing to have been improved about the building, what would it be?"

The answer was instructive: "Well, the color of the concrete on the handicap ramp is slightly different from the color of the concrete out here on the main walkway, so there is a mismatch where they meet. I would have made them the same color, and that's what the plans called for."

I inspected the area where ramp meets main walkway and found that there was a barely perceptible difference. Barely, to my eyes. And any worker who is that particular is certainly to be admired.

This is a magnificent structure and will no doubt contribute mightily to the cultural life of Crozet. Just perfect!

I cannot wait until opening day! We've waited years for this new library, and it is sorely needed. I have made several contributions to help with fundraising.

There were many deficiencies at the old building which did not have the capacity to serve the number of patrons that visited it. The parking lot was miniscule (about 10 spaces, total) and awkward, which cased patrons like myself to use other branches to reserve and pick up books from. The library branch manager and staff performed miracles in the old building. I can't wait to see what they do in the new one!

JS Greare says...The answer was instructive: "Well, the color of the concrete on the handicap ramp is slightly different from the color of the concrete out here on the main walkway, so there is a mismatch where they meet. I would have made them the same color, and that's what the plans called for."
Guess what, it was a mistake and it's on the punch out list....

What a nice building with the mountains in the background, who could ask for anything better.As for the old building it should become the train station again. It could get renovated to make it look elegant just like the other ones in the region thus adding another boost to the city since it started as a train depot area.Go for it!!