An extraordinary, ordinary year: A look back at 2022

It was both an extraordinary year and, in many ways, an ordinary one. After operating for more than two years within tiers of service in response to community Covid rates, JMRL gratefully resumed standard operating procedures across all eight branches and the Bookmobile. A “return to normal” may sound unremarkable, but 2022 was definitely not boring.

JMRL branches welcomed more than 657,000 library visitors and issued 10,252 new library cards. Library patrons checked out 1.6 million physical and digital items—and saved an estimated $40 million by borrowing instead of buying. See JMRL’s Top 10 Checkouts of 2022.

While continuing to offer virtual programs, the library added more hybrid (virtual and in-person) as well as indoor and outdoor options for in-person programs. In 2022, 44,905 people of all ages attended 1,811 programs at JMRL branches. 

As in previous years, two major regional programs took place. Throughout March, community members picked up free paperback copies of Traci Chee’s We Are Not Free, JMRL’s 2022 Same Page Community Read selection, at their local JMRL branch or the Bookmobile. They discussed the YA historical fiction novel at book club meetings and participated in special events—culminating in An Evening with Traci Chee, a conversation moderated by local children’s author Amy Lee-Tai during the Virginia Festival of the Book. 

A few months later, 3,581 people registered for JMRL’s annual summer reading challenge and tracked their progress in a new way—the beanstack app!  Library staff at every branch went all out decorating and planning activities around the theme “oceans of possibilities,” and patrons of all ages enjoyed kickoff parties, performances, workshops, and other summer fun. 

The JMRL Friends of the Library book sale came back in a big way. With ample space and parking at the old Northside Library location in Albemarle Square shopping center, more people came out to shop the sale—many of them more than once—and purchased stacks and stacks of books. Both the spring and fall sale in 2022 broke all previous records, totaling nearly $300,000 in funds raised. This funding will ensure that JMRL can offer the best programming possible to patrons in fiscal year 2024.

JMRL celebrated 50 years as a regional library system and 100 years of library service in Charlottesville-Albemarle. These milestones also brought special recognition from the Virginia Library Association with the 2022 Virginia Library of the Year Award.  

“This award wouldn’t be possible without the tremendous support of JMRL’s partner jurisdictions—the City of Charlottesville, and the counties of Albemarle, Greene, Louisa and Nelson,” Library Director David Plunkett said in a press release. “This 50-year partnership has brought the joy of literacy and community to hundreds of thousands of people in the JMRL service area. While JMRL is honored to accept this award for 2022, the Library is already focused on the next 50 years of providing the library service that the people in these communities expect and deserve.”

To that end, in 2022 JMRL expanded outreach initiatives to meet people where they are; offered outdoor and hybrid programming, curbside services, and additional self-pickup hold shelves, installed 24/7 self-pickup hold lockers at six branches, shifted to the beanstack app for reading challenges, added digital library card sign-up options, and met the increased demand for in-person services such as notarizations, meeting space, faxing and printing, and assistance with job searches.

Read on for a few of the year’s highlights from each of JMRL’s eight branches and the Bookmobile.

Bookmobile

This year the Bookmobile’s focus was on expanding and adding new services, including:

  • A new public stop at The Center at The Belvedere.
  • Participation at Summer Reading Program branch kickoff parties, and as a bonus summer challenge.
  • Resuming participation in community events such as the Dogwood Festival Parade and the Westhaven Community Day.
  • Hiring additional staff to expand service.
  • Establishing volunteer opportunities through JMRL’s Adult Volunteer Program.

Central 

  • After a two-year hiatus, Central was able to hold the fourth annual How-To Festival in May—with much success! NBC29 stopped by and filed this report. Two podcast episodes featured interviews with some of the presenters: episode one and episode two
  • Outreach at Fridays After Five for the Summer Reading Challenge and Library Card Signup Month.
  • Hosted Banned Books Trivia Night at Champion Brewing with great participation and banned books giveaways.
  • October’s Afternoon in the Shire program brought together Hobbit fans of all ages for crafts and activities.

Crozet

  • First Responders Day—partnered with Albemarle County Police Dept, Western Albemarle Rescue Squad, and Crozet Volunteer Fire Department. NBC29 came out to do a story!
  • Mindful Moments Kits—patrons are loving these!
  • Date Night in a Box was a huge hit for Valentine’s Day, and patrons have asked to do it again!
  • Passive activities were popular, especially Scavenger Hunts: Baby Yoda and crocheted Sea Creatures.
  • Monthly outreach visits to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank at Crozet United Methodist Church
  • The Hold Pickup Lockers have been tremendously successful!
  • Crozet’s amazing teen volunteers put in a grand total of 1,824.75 hours in 2022!

Gordon

  • Saving the family of abandoned baby skunks living under the library stairs.
  • The two plant swaps (spring and fall) created a great sense of community and sharing.
  • Launching Deadly Knits, a multigenerational program for anyone with an appreciation of knitting and true crime.
  • Class visits from Venable—seeing kids experience the magic of the library and storytime.
  • Resuming Together Tales—families spending Saturday morning at the library singing, reading, and rhyming together.

Greene 

  • A big development was the Friends of the Greene County Library’s successful launch of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library
  • Equally wonderful this year was the return of in-person programming, especially for Greene’s two storytime programs: Wiggle Time and Raising Readers. In-person storytimes allow a richer experience, more socialization, craft experiences, and special playtimes. 
  • Big thanks to the Friends of Greene County Library for providing all new toys for Wiggle Time!

Louisa

The Louisa Library staff worked hard to implement new services for patrons. 

  • A new book return bin was installed outside the Walgreens store on Main Street in the town of Louisa. 
  • Louisa County Library was also the first branch to receive the new outdoor pickup locker, increasing users’ access to holds. 
  • Louisa also installed a soundproof privacy pod, perfect for quiet work or meetings.
  • Two successful long-running programs continued to thrive this year: chair yoga and bring your own craft club. Hear about BYOC on JMRL’s podcast

Nelson

  • Nelson County Library celebrated 50 years of library services with an open house for the community.
  • A formal partnership began with the Nelson County School System. A two-year plan is in the works that will include creating JMRL library cards for all students, starting book clubs, and special school visits with stories and projects, reading challenges and stem competitions as well as new support for teachers. 

Northside

  • The amazing decorations the children’s department created for summer reading—families loved the giant shark mouth that greeted them at the door—and there were many other ocean and pirate related decorations including a gang plank!
  • The addition of the Paws to Read programs with Scout and Daisy.
  • The interactive mystery for teens to solve in the YA department. 
  • The craft extravaganza in early December for families and patrons of all ages. 
  • Two cooking demonstrations: Filipino Cooking with the Little Manilla Food Truck and Cooking for Diabetes with UVA Health.

Scottsville

  • One of the most enlightening programs at Scottsville this year was a virtual panel discussion about books in prisons. It was a fascinating look at how books change lives in prisons, and how libraries really are for everyone! If you missed the event, you can check out this list of resources.
  • We also had lots of fun family programming, from a sprinkler and popsicle day, to a fairy house building program, a visit from the Charlottesville Ballet, and a very popular Holiday Craft Fair.
  • The Scottsville Bright Stars class visited for a library tour and a storytime, after which we all painted pumpkins.
  • A book fair with the Boys and Girls Club, with donated new books and hot chocolate provided by the local coffee shop, Baines. 
  • We had some fun passive programming as well, including a month-long bulb planting activity as well as a voting booth around election time where kids could vote for either Curious George or Maisy.

What a year 2022 was! JMRL received an unprecedented amount of feedback from the public, leading to a new streamlined online option for anyone to share thoughts with the Library. Stay connected with JMRL through the Library’s blog, podcast, Facebook and Instagram pages, and monthly newsletters.

2 comments

  1. We are grateful for the Crozet JMRL Staff for being kind, helpful and resourceful!! You All help to create a comfortable atmosphere to learn, ask questions and we loved the free “Mindfulness Bags” that you thoughtfully provided this past week. You never know what fun one might find at the Library but we always enjoy the experience and leave with a good read!
    Thank You!

  2. I have been a patron of JMRL since we moved to the area 40 years ago. I continue to be impressed with the resources and programming. JMRL has done and continues to do an amazing job of staying current and relevant as a community resource. Kudos to JMRL!

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