The Earliest Arlington Library
Those familiar with the history of the Glencarlyn neighborhood will be unsurprised that the same community that includes the Ball-Sellers House, one of Arlington's oldest buildings, can also lay claim to the earliest roots of the Library system in Arlington County.
The genesis of the Glencarlyn Branch Library can be traced back to the 1890s and Carlin Hall, located at 5711 4th Street South. Known at the time as the Glencarlyn/Carlin Community Town Hall, the building’s west end housed a small library operated by the Young People’s Library Association. In 1914, when a bequest from the will of prominent Glencarlyn resident General Samuel S. Burdett included a provision “for a public library and as the place of deposit” for his own impressive collection of books “at a cost of not more than $3,000," the idea of constructing a true library building was undertaken.
Twentieth Century Growth
Since this was wartime, the expenditure for the construction of the Library was hardly without controversy. Aided by an additional $2,000 in funding from the sale of other lots owned by Burdett and William W. and Jane L. Curtis, construction finally began in January of 1922, and the building was completed by the middle of that year.
As would be the case in the other fledgling library branches of Arlington County, women provided the leadership, skills and wherewithal to ensure that the newly christened Burdett Library would develop and flourish. Thus, in the fall of 1923, the Library opened under the stewardship of May Schaaf (1923-1945) and included books from General Burdett’s personal library, new books and magazines, and remnants of the original collection from the Town Hall Library. May Schaaf was succeeded by Mary Kennedy (1945-1946), Celina Valentine (1946-1949) and Mabel Milton (1949-1953).
Joining the County
In 1936, the Burdett Library became part of the Arlington County Library system and the building was rented from the County’s Board of Trustees until April 12, 1959, when the County was presented with the deed to the building by trustees Constance Backus and Charles Stetson.
In 1963, in order to improve facilities and house an ever growing collection, a newer, more modern library designed by architect J. Russell Bailey was built adjacent to Carlin Hall at 300 South Kensington Street. An example of the Williamsburg Colonial architectural style, the new library included a patio which was funded by the Glencarlyn Garden Club to be used as an outdoor reading room.