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Renovated Vienna library will be named for desegregation advocates

Patrick Henry Library in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Town of Vienna’s future library will bear a name with close ties to its past.

Fairfax County Public Library’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved “Vienna-Carter” as the new name for Patrick Henry Library at its meeting on Wednesday (Feb. 14). The name change will officially take effect once the library reopens after an expansion project that’s expected to start later this year and finish in fall 2026.

The vote inspired applause at the back of the George Mason Regional Library meeting room where the board convened. Among those clapping were Hoyt and Dee Dee Carter, a grandson and cousin, respectively, of Patrick Henry Library’s new namesakes, William and Lillian Carter.

“I’m very thrilled,” Dee Dee Carter said after the meeting adjourned. “I’m elated because it was unanimous. Nobody did a pushback, and I’m glad they’re in favor of it.”

Aware of the upcoming renovation, the Carters, who still live in Vienna, proposed last year that Patrick Henry Library be renamed after their family, who were instrumental in getting Fairfax County to integrate the facility when it launched in 1962.

Before Patrick Henry was established, Vienna’s only library was a one-room building on Maple Avenue that only served white residents. One day in the 1950s, the Vienna Library Association’s board of trustees even came to the Carters’ home and took back books that a white woman had checked out for their children, including Hoyt Carter’s father.

That incident spurred the Carters to start an informal “Friends of the Library” group in 1958 that met in their living room, according to a family story recounted in Christopher Barbuschak and Suzanne LaPierre’s book “Desegregation in Northern Virginia Libraries.”

With an interracial membership that included Kenton Kilmer, the son of poet Joyce Kilmer, the friends’ group successfully desegregated Vienna’s library, overcoming the opposition of the library association’s president to revise its charter to allow all patrons regardless of race.

Dee Dee Carter says one of her cousins, Sharon Honesty, was one of the first African American patrons to use Patrick Henry when it opened in Vienna’s Maple Avenue Shopping Center in 1962. The library moved to its current site at 101 Maple Avenue East in 1971.

“We were talking about Blacks being able to go in and use the library and use books from the library, so I feel that it’s a wonder to have this now happen,” Hoyt Carter said of Patrick Henry getting renamed after his grandparents.

Though the vote was unanimous, some board members reported getting questions and emails asking why the name change was being considered.

While the renaming wasn’t subject to a public hearing, FCPL Director Jessica Hudson said community members had several opportunities to weigh in at board meetings, including before the board approved an update to its facility naming policy last November.

The change had gotten the support of Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn and some Vienna Town Council members, though the council didn’t take an official stance, according to FCPL Board Chair Brian Engler.

Dee Dee Carter told FFXnow that she hasn’t heard anyone object to the new name, which was initially proposed to be “Carter-Vienna.” FCPL’s policy requires library names to reference their geographical location, and the board ultimately decided that the location should go first.

Suzanne Levy, the board’s vice chair and Fairfax City representative, expressed hope that the renaming will draw attention to the library system’s history.

“We’re not hiding what the county used to do,” she said. “It opens discussion and shows that we’re moving forward.”

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