Bassett Branch History
The Bassett Public Library had its start in 1939, when the Bassett Garden Club decided that the town needed a library. At a tea for interested citizens, almost 100 books were collected. The first location for the library was a room in the Stone Block, where Garden Club members took turns keeping the library open three afternoons a week.
From this location, the library was moved to two rooms over the old Kroger store. Mrs. B. F. Noland took over management of the library without pay. While the library was located over Kroger's a fire broke out in the building and badly damaged many of the library's small collection of books. Mrs. Noland, hunched over her precious books, frantically tried to erase smoke damage from page after page. She was assisted by members of the Club, who then gathered around a potbellied stove to lay plans for the building of a "real" library.
They found a new home for the library in the old elementary school which had recently been vacated. Mrs. Noland took over as full-time librarian, keeping the library open half a day.
By 1955, the handsome new Bassett Public Library building, located on a lot in North Bassett donated by Bassett Furniture Industries, was completed. The cost of the building, including the architect's fees and furnishings, was $53,388.72. The library was maintained, the books purchased, and the librarian's salary was paid over the years by an annual contribution from the United Fund and thru private donations. Mrs. Noland's health forced her to resign in 1959, and Mrs. G. W. Bassett stepped into her shoes. Later, the Henry County Board of Supervisors began contributing two-thirds of the amount needed to keep the library functioning.
By the late 1980's the Bassett Library had outgrown its walls. After a disastrous flood on Labor Day, 1987, plans were made to build an addition located above the flood plain. On November 1, 1988, the addition was completed, resulting in doubling of the size of the original building. The addition included The Virginia Room, dedicated to Shirley Brightwell Bassett, which housed extensive genealogical and historical records, a children's room, expanded shelf space, an office, and a storage area. Included in the addition was a small parking area as well.
In 1992 the Bassett Public Library became Bassett Branch Library of the Blue Ridge Regional Library System. This branch became the main genealogical facility for the area as well.
In 1996 a building directly across the street from the library which had been a dress shop was for sale. Some very forward looking individuals saw the possibility of the library to expand and separate the genealogical and historical records from the other books and services. The Board of Directors named a committee to lead a community effort to raise funds. Large donations were received from Bassett Furniture, Stanley Furniture, Patrick Henry Bank and the Henry County Board of Supervisors, as well as many donations, both large and small, from residents and patrons. This enabled the Bassett Branch Library to open its new building in December of 1998. The original Bassett Branch then became the Historical Center.
The Bassett Branch Library covers 6,000 square feet housing a collection of over 63,000 items. At the time of this writing, annual circulation numbers are over 30,000 with an average monthly patron attendance of about 4,000.