A Steadfast Purpose
"You will never succeed… It will soon die out…
Some will come out of curiosity, get a book, and never come back or return your book."
These were the comments the Educational Committee (later the Library Committee) of the Woman’s Civic Club of Arlington received when, in 1923, they first approached the citizens of Clarendon with the idea of starting a library in order to build good reading habits in the community’s children.
Despite having no funding, no books, and no knowledge of library operations, the ten members of the Library Committee led by Dora Mae Hynes were not discouraged, and overcame these start-up challenges. To begin building a collection, they hosted a Library Party in the Clarendon Citizens’ Hall with the price of admission being a book—new, or used so as not to exclude anyone from attending—which brought in 53 volumes. To raise money, the women performed “Those Husbands of Ours: A Farce in One Act” in Clarendon on May 17, 1924 and again at Bailey’s Crossroads on June 17, raising $174.95. The Library Committee members actively sought donations from local organizations. They also looked to local libraries and the American Library Association regarding library operations.
According to the branch’s first Librarian Dora Mae Hynes, the Clarendon Library opened on June 20, 1924 “with a steadfast purpose but [a] trifle shaky hand," in a single room in the Old Fire House on Wilson Boulevard. They had 150 books of their own, and 50 on loan from the Virginia State Library.
Guided by Hynes’ “dauntless courage and determination” the Library Committee continued to build up the Clarendon Library and helped it to flourish. Autumn Festivals, musical programs, illustrated lectures, bake sales, and teas brought in revenue, which was used to expand the book collection, purchase supplies, and cover the overhead expenses. Just one year after opening, the Clarendon Library housed nearly 1400 volumes, loaning them to borrowers from Ballston, Lyon Park, Lyon Village, Columbia Pike, Aurora Heights, Bon Air, Rosslyn, Ft. Myer Heights, and Marshall.
A Growing Collection
By 1927, the collection had grown to 3500 items. The Library was forced to close for a short time while it looked for a new space big enough to support its collection. In June 1928, Hynes organized and chaired the Arlington District Library Association, and devised a schedule by which some 20 county organizations contributed $50 for a given month in order to sustain the library at its new location, 4 N. Clarendon Avenue (now Irving Street).
The library moved again in April 1929, to a small house on what is now Highland Street. Feeling the effects of the depression, Hynes and Mrs. Lockwood approached the County Board in the fall of 1930 for funds to cover rent, which were granted.
Despite early naysayers, these indefatigable women volunteers sustained the Clarendon Library through a series of moves and brief closures, and persistent funding issues, in order to meet the needs of their community.
Joining the County Library System
The Clarendon Library became part of the County-wide library system in 1937. It moved two more times before settling in 1940 at 1059 N. Irving Street - a property donated by the Clarendon Citizens’ Association and owned by the County.