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New name proposed for Vienna’s soon-to-be-renovated library

Patrick Henry Library (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A new look could come with a new name for Patrick Henry Library.

With a major renovation on the horizon, the Fairfax County Public Library’s board of trustees is set to vote next Wednesday (Feb. 14) on whether to rename the Vienna facility after William and Lillian Carter, who co-founded the nonprofit friends’ group that has supported the library for over half a century.

Living members of the Carter family requested the name change last year as a recognition of their ancestors’ efforts to ensure Patrick Henry would be integrated when it launched in 1962, according to Library Board Chair and Braddock District Trustee Brian Engler.

“Mr. Carter was a founding member of the nonprofit Friends of the Library group in Vienna, which advocated for a County library facility within the Town to serve all residents,” Engler told FFXnow. “At that time, library services were only available to white residents. After receiving the inquiry, the Library Board first reviewed its policies regarding facility naming conventions and is now at a point where it can have full board discussion on the request.”

The request came to the board of trustees on Sept. 13, 2023, prompting a re-consideration of FCPL’s policy for naming facilities, according to the board packet for next week’s meeting, which will take place at 7 p.m. at George Mason Regional Library (7001 Little River Turnpike) in Annandale.

Previously updated in 2020, the existing policy permitted renaming proposals from residents of a library’s service area “if the benefits of the name change outweigh the costs such a name change could generate.” However, the new name had to reflect the library’s geographic location.

The board approved a revision on Nov. 8 that added the option for libraries to “also include the name of a group or individual, living or deceased, who has made a significant contribution” to FCPL as a whole or to that individual branch. A reference to the branch’s location must still be included.

As a result, FCPL staff are recommending that Patrick Henry be renamed the “Carter-Vienna Library” after it’s rebuilt.

Vienna’s first public library operated out of a one-room building at 101 Maple Avenue East from 1897 to 1962. Spurred by the advocacy of the Friends of Vienna Library group that the Carters helped found, Fairfax County started Patrick Henry Library as a shopping center storefront before its current building opened in 1971.

The original library was relocated to 164 Mill Street NE in 1969 and has been preserved as a museum run by Historic Vienna Inc.

Last renovated in 1995, the Patrick Henry Library building is now nearing the end of its usable life, according to FCPL. The planned overhaul will pair an approximately 18,000-square-foot, one-story library with a 209-space, three-level parking garage partially funded by the Town of Vienna.

According to the board’s Feb. 14 agenda, county staff currently anticipate construction on the project to begin this fall or winter, putting the new library on track to open in fall 2026.

“The County has additionally committed to opening a temporary library space within the Town of Vienna to continue providing resident services during the demolition and construction period,” FCPL staff wrote.

Given its eventual demolition, staff recommended that Patrick Henry Library’s name change, if approved, not take effect until the new building opens.