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Advocate for libraries will never be forgotten
Donna Cote's memories of George Van Sant's contributions to the Central Rappahannock Regional Library

 A group performs at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library for the monthly Music on the Steps event, a series that evolved under George Van Sant's leadership.
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Date published: 1/29/2013

GEORGE Van Sant was well-known in the area for his outstanding public service in the Marine Corps, at Mary Washington College, and in local politics. To many of us, however, he was best known as an advocate for the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

Van was a founding member of the Friends of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library. In 1969, he helped to rally resident support and establish a local Friends group that lobbied the Library of Virginia to consider the Fredericksburg region for a demonstration library. His infectious enthusiasm was persuasive, and the Regional Library was established in 1969.

In 1971, Van traveled throughout the area as a spokesperson for the fledgling Regional Library system to increase Friends membership and to rally support for local funding. His efforts culminated in an agreement establishing the CRRL as an independent regional library system.

Under Van's energetic leadership, the Friends of the CRRL began providing a reliable stream of revenue for the library, dollars that provide enhancements beyond regular operating funds. To this day, the Friends of the Library funds enlightening experiences such as the long-running Monday Night Music on the Steps concerts, and provide furnishings that make the library branches welcoming and comfortable places to visit.

The Friends' most recent project is the sprucing up of the headquarters lobby to provide more public computers, attractive browsing areas, and space for self-checkout machines.

In 1985, Van was appointed to the CRRL board of trustees, representing the city of Fredericksburg. He served on the board for 12 years, including terms as chairman and vice chairman. During his tenure, the library evolved into a sophisticated regional system linking branches with the latest in network technologies, boosting the book collections, and providing excellent customer service to our fast-growing region.

In 1988, propelled by his leadership, the participating jurisdictions hammered out an agreement that provided for the total renovation of the CRRL headquarters facility in Fredericksburg, as well as commitments for major branches in Stafford and Spotsylvania counties.

The promised new libraries followed quickly: The headquarters was reopened in 1991, Porter Library in North Stafford was built in 1992, and the Salem Church Library opened in 1994. Since then, two renovated libraries and three brand-new libraries have opened, providing a total of eight library branches regional residents.

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