Petersburg Public Library History
The Petersburg Public Library was originally housed in the William R. McKenney Memorial Building on 137 South Sycamore Street. The building was constructed in 1859 as a private residence. It was built by John Dodson, the first mayor of Petersburg. It housed several families over the years and was a residence of the “Hero of the Crater”, General William Mahone. The final owner of the home was William R. McKenney, local politician and active citizen, who purchased the property in 1911.
Upon McKenney’s death in 1924, his widow, Clara Pickrell McKenney, gave the building to the City for use as a library and museum in memory of her husband. It was originally named the William R. McKenney Free Library, but this was later changed to the Petersburg Public Library, William R. McKenney Memorial Building. The Benevolent Mechanic’s Association donated 12, 000 volumes towards the new library, while Mrs. George Cameron Sr. and Mrs. Lyman Gilbert each donated $6000 for the purchase of adult and children’s books. In 1958, an addition to expand the library was made possible by the generosity of the George Cameron family, specifically through the will of Mrs. Lyman Gilbert. The addition included the George Cameron Memorial Room, a children’s room, club assembly room, and the Anna M. Dunlop Art Gallery.
The A.P. Hill Library opened on the second floor of the A.P. Hill Community Center in 1976 and the Rodof Sholom Library at 1865 S. Sycamore Street opened in 198.. By the 1990’s, however, space was becoming an issue. Also, the aging buildings were also not designed with 21st century technology in mind. The Petersburg Library Foundation was founded to fund raise for and plan a new state-of-the-art facility. This $12.7 million building was paid for through the fund-raising efforts of the Petersburg Library Foundation, by means of grants and solicitation of public donors. Phase one of the new library included the main building and the eastern wing of the building, but not the Conference and Event Center. The Conference and Event Center was Phase Two, begun in 2020 and completed in 2021. The 6400 square foot addition is a state of the art facility with a capacity of 375 people.
The new building at 201 W. Washington Street opened in April of 2014. In the decade of 2010-2019, the library issued 26964 library cards, added 53793 items, checked out 1,004.131 and had approximately 600,000 guests.