HCPL Tour Series #1: Sandston Branch Library
Get to know all of our library locations through our new Library Tour blog series! Each post will highlight a different HCPL location and its unique features. To kick things off, we’re highlighting the Sandston Branch Library. As the first public library in Henrico with an upcoming 100th Anniversary, Sandston seemed like the perfect place to start our tour. Read on to learn more about Sandston and how you can celebrate its 100 years!
100th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
This February, join us for the centennial celebration of Sandston Library! To commemorate the occasion, we’ll be hosting a number of activities:
- Attend our Open House on Thursday, February 23, from 3-7PM for refreshments, children’s crafts, teen maker boxes, and Make-and-Take activities to go.
- Learn about Sandston’s history in our Behind the Shell: The Seven Pines Bag Loading Plant & Women's Munition Reserve program with Henrico County Recreation and Parks Historian, Lisa Denton.
- Tour the library throughout February to view historic displays of Sandston’s past, including the roster of the 1300 women who worked at the Seven Pines Bag Loading Plant.
The Village of Fairfield, now known as Sandston, originated as a worker village in 1918 to support the E.I. DuPont de Nemours Seven Pines Loading Plant, which sewed silk bags for gun powder during World War I. After the war, the president of the Richmond-Fairfield Railway Company, Oliver J. Sands, purchased the village and used it to develop an affordable suburban neighborhood for workers commuting to and from the city of Richmond. By 1923, Sandston’s population had grown enough to establish its own post office and library. (Historic Sandston)
The library’s current structure occupies the same site where the first public library in Henrico, operated by the Sandston Women's Club, stood from 1923 until 1980. It is located in the heart of the Sandston Historic District in a walkable downtown area on Williamsburg Road.
2022 REFRESH: A NEW LOOK & FEEL
Sandston Library has seen many changes over the years. The original building, a WWI-era bungalow, was operated by the Sandston Women’s Club until 1967, when it became part of the County’s library system. Construction for the library’s current brick structure broke ground in 1979.
The library has undergone various renovations since, with its most recent update being a thorough interior refresh completed in November 2022. Additionally, Sandston recently received a brand new Work and Play station! The station, located in the Children’s department, allows caregivers to do computer work while keeping an eye on their little ones. It includes a workspace attached to an enclosed and padded play area where children can engage with interactive games and literacy activities.
WHAT THE STAFF & PATRONS SAY
We spoke with staff to learn more about their experience working at Sandston. Echoed by many was how much they enjoy working in a neighborhood branch. Sandston is the only HCPL location with just one service desk. This requires all staff members to be proficient in circulation tasks and providing reference for adults, teens, and children. Chris M., who has worked at Sandston for the past sixteen years, noted that this “makes each day different and keeps us on our toes.” Library Manager Anita T. added that it helps foster a deeper connection between staff and the community, “The benefit of this is that our patrons know us and look forward to working with us.”
Sandston’s “small-town” library feel is part of what makes it so unique. Manager Anita also noted that the town of Sandston is incredibly diverse, and that the “historic over-100-year-old tight-knit community exhibits a lot of pride and support from its residents, particularly from those who grew up here.” As Robert C. puts it, “Sandston residents are proud Sandstonians!”
In addition to its charm, diversity, and sense of community, Teshawna T. shared one of Sandston’s lesser-known unique features, “If you were looking at the building from a sky view, I thoroughly enjoy how Sandston’s roof is a replica of an open book.”
When asked about their favorite memories, staff had a hard time choosing just one. Below are a few of their favorites:
- Anita: “Not just one comes to mind, but every time we become aware that we have improved or changed the trajectory of someone’s life. One example is of a 10 year old who came to the Sandston Branch regularly with his tutor and self-published his first book last year. His tutor thanked us, saying, ‘I know the library meetings and the environment were so instrumental to his success.’”
- Robert: “In December, 2022, I got to give a tour of the Sandston Library to two first-grade classes from Sandston Elementary School. I had fun interacting with the students.”
- Chris: “There are so many great memories. Playing Santa Claus, making a fake casting of a Bigfoot footprint, patrons telling us how much we helped them get their degrees. There are just so many…. Working here every day is special, this is where I belong.”
- Teshawna: “Sandston Library has very unique and creative staff members who pitch in to make engaging and informative displays for patrons to enjoy. For this past summer's reading theme, “Oceans of Possibilities,” a staff member made a 3-D octopus and so many people were amazed. The smiles and looks on their faces made me value how impactful a library can be.”
Of course Sandston wouldn’t be what it is today without its devoted community. When asked what they love most about the library, patrons noted its expansive floating collection, technology, programs, and friendly staff. Some recalled memories like participating in book clubs, Summer Reading challenges, and visiting as a child. One patron mentioned how they are always greeted like a close friend, and another expressed their appreciation for having a space where everyone, from all walks of life, can gather and co-exist.
It’s clear that, in addition to its unique history, Sandston Library holds a special place in the hearts of staff, patrons, and the larger HCPL community. We hope to see you at its 100th anniversary celebration!
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