Our Fauquier County Public Libraries are central to the vitality of our community
Story and photos by Lindsay Hogeboom
For nearly four decades, Deborah Crosby has worked within the Fauquier County library system, including her current role as branch manager at the John Marshall library. Throughout her tenure, she has been not only a resource, but also a friend and a helping hand to her fellow community members. She recalls one story of a man who came in for help after troubleshooting issues with his truck and hitting a dead end. “I said, ‘Well, wait a minute, let’s try YouTube!’ This man didn’t have a library card, he didn’t know what YouTube was,” she says. So, I went on [YouTube], and wouldn’t you know it, they showed how to fix that truck! I went home and told my husband, ‘I fixed a truck today!’ Who would have thought a librarian could walk out there and help this guy fix his truck?”
Librarians like Crosby make libraries so much more than books and information — they provide equitable access to services, education, and skills training; a safe and comfortable space to learn, work, and unwind; and promote important values, such as friendship, inclusivity, compassion, diversity, social responsibility, and lifelong learning. For all of these reasons, libraries are central to the vitality of communities.
In Fauquier County, the library system consists of three separate yet integrated branches — Warrenton, John Marshall, and Bealeton. The essential services offered within each of these buildings would not be possible without our dedicated and versatile librarians, who wear many hats, with duties ranging from making book recommendations and answering customer inquiries to leading various programs, assisting with computers and so much more.
Julia Rummel, youth services librarian at the Bealeton branch, has lived in Fauquier County since childhood and has always been passionate about helping others. Prior to her job at the library, Rummel worked with the local Head Start program for 20 years, helping to care for and educate young children. In her current position, Rummel continues to specialize in youth services and enjoys hosting storytimes for her youth patrons. “I love fostering that love of language and reading for children through story time,” she says. Additionally, as a reference librarian, the requests Rummel receives run the gamut. “I had one patron asking me to [help them] get a Chilean passport,” she says. “I had a patron ask me about planting cabbage. You just never know what you’re going to get asked.”
At the Warrenton branch, Pam Lovera serves as senior adult services librarian. Previously, Lovera worked as the medical librarian for UVA Prince William Medical Center before transitioning to the National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest biomedical library. Lovera’s experience conducting in-depth research as a medical librarian prepared her well for her current role, in which she oversees the Virginiana Room — a room that houses a plethora of information on Virginia and Fauquier County history, from yearbooks to issues of the Fauquier Times dating back to 1907, and other resources that date back to colonial times. Lovera says many people come in requesting historical information on their house or about their ancestry, and that she is usually able to help them track down insights about their property or utilize the many genealogy resources available to assist with developing a richer understanding of their family history.
Lovera’s colleague, Jennifer Diamonti, has worked in public libraries throughout her career. In 2018, Diamonti moved to Gainesville and joined the team at the Warrenton branch as senior youth services librarian. Diamonti explains that a primary function of her role is preparing children to be library users as adults. “We want them to be life-long learners and life-long readers,” she says. One way in which Diamonti promotes this love of learning is through hands-on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) programs. Recent STEAM programs have focused on topics like building and construction, fossils, animation, outer space, bubbles, and osmosis. Diamonti also asserts that she simply enjoys making book recommendations and getting to know community members. “It is a wonderful job, it is a wonderful library, it is a wonderful community,” she says. “I feel like I landed in a good spot.”
One common sentiment expressed among the librarians at each location is that, contrary to the stereotype of the formal or strict library setting, Fauquier County libraries are really spaces for community building. “If there’s anyone who still thinks of a librarian as that stereotypical shushing person, we’re not like that anymore, if we ever were,” says Diamonti. “Libraries have become more of a community space.” Lovera agrees. “We have people that come in daily and check their email, and they just want to say hi and get out of the house, and we’re a place where people can do that,” she says.
According to Crosby, it is the relationships that are cultivated within the library that create this sense of community. At the John Marshall branch, one reading group has been getting together once a month for nearly two decades. “Because these people have been getting together for so long, there are incredibly close friendships that have developed,” Crosby says. “We’ve had illness, death — in 20 years you can imagine the kinds of things — and these people are amazing. They really care about each other.”
Given that these librarians thrive on cultivating these connections, COVID posed a challenge when it forced all three libraries to close their doors and halt in-person programming for a number of months. However, the librarians were up to the task of ensuring their community members still received valuable library services. “The challenges have made us more creative,” says Crosby. With the switch to many virtual services, such as virtual story times, Rummel says, “I think a benefit is that we’re reaching different patrons than we [normally] would be — they may not be able to attend during the normal story time, but they may be able to attend now.”
At the Warrenton branch, Lovera and Diamonti say they saw an increase in library card registrations during the pandemic, as well as an increase in participation in some programs. Prior to the COVID pandemic, crafting programs at the Warrenton library averaged approximately 10 to 12 participants. Now, Lovera says since they have transitioned to giving out take-home do-it-yourself craft bags, they are averaging 100 participants per month.
Another popular service during the pandemic has been mobile hotspot device rentals, which allows users to access the internet from anywhere. Lovera explains that this was important for many kids, especially within rural areas of the county, who may not have reliable internet service and needed to access online learning.
These stories and statistics from during the COVID pandemic emphasize what has always been true — the Fauquier County libraries are vital public resources. For that, we have our librarians to thank. When asked about the value of the library, Rummel summarizes it best: “It’s immeasurable. The library is a resource where anybody can go and ask for help. Everybody is welcome. And it’s free!”
This article highlights only a portion of the programs and resources available through the Fauquier County Public Libraries. For more information, visit www.fauquierlibrary.org.