Craig County Public Library

Library Updates

Library Membership Drive Raffle Drawing Winner Announced

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The gift card drawing for the Friends of the Library Membership Drive was at the end of June. The winner, Diane Givens, received a $100 gift certificate from Vickie Moore to be used at Helms Hardware in New Castle. The Membership Drive drawing supports both our library and a local business.
Membership fees keep the Craig County Library open for residents use. Becoming a member is one of the many ways the community can support the library. Those dollars contribute to our limited staff and keep movies and books on the shelf. You can join or renew your membership and/or donate at any time. The dues cover membership starting July 1st of the current year to June 30th of the next year. Access the Friends of the Library membership form here.
We are grateful to our Membership Chair Jane Henderson for making this year’s drive such a success. The drawing was not only her idea but a direct donation that she made for the library. Thank you to all our members and your support of the library. If you are not a member yet, you still can sign up by picking up a form at the library.

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Cooperative Living Magazine: Every Barn Could Use a Quilt

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Every Barn Could Use a Quilt

Eye-catching painted patterns brighten outbuildings and benefit bookworms.

There is Double Aster, Star of the Show and Carpenter’s Wheel. Mary’s Flower, Autumn Cross and Appalachian Bull. Anvil, Laced Star and Crowned Mule. And, of course, Craig Library.

Those sobriquets are just a part of a thriving barn quilt operation that brings a fascinating look to even timeworn structures in multiple states while raising money for the community library in Craig County, Va.

“This is like a second career. I’m having a ball. I’m just as happy as a clam with no end in sight,” says Martha Dillard, who has meticulously designed, etched and painted more than 155 barn quilts since 2014 in the studio she maintains behind her family home near New Castle, Va.

In the process, she’s raised more than $15,000 through her Barn Quilts for Books program to support the small but growing Craig County Public Library.

“When I started, I thought if I got 20, I could raise $2,000 for the library and that would be good,” says Dillard, a member of Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative. “I never imagined it would take off like it did.”

To set the record straight, barn quilts are not padded comforters of the kind grandmothers weave and place at the foot of beds. Those wouldn’t stand a chance tacked to the side of a barn in the summer Virginia sun.

Instead, the quilt refers to a unique pattern on the given medium. Dillard’s artistry employs lightweight aluminum composite plates that run from 2-by-2 feet to 8-by-8 feet. A longtime painter, she’s not an art snob, but has definite opinions about others in the field
who use plywood as their canvas.

“Having painted on a lot of different surfaces, I knew I did not want to paint on plywood, which is what many of the painters in the country are using for these things. It doesn’t hold up well. You have to prime it front, back and sideways and put braces on it, and it’s very heavy,” she says.

As of late March, her quilts were on display in eight states, with an outside hope that a couple living in Illinois would take their possession to their other residence in Israel. “I told the daughter-in-law who bought it, ‘If they ever take this to Israel, will you let me know because I’d love to go international.’” Dillard laughs.


A native of Texas, Dillard moved to Virginia with her husband, John, now emeritus professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech. Along the way, she earned an art degree from Tech and constructed a studio when the couple decided to move from Blacksburg to the country about 22 years ago. She had been a painter for 35 years with landscapes and a variety of other pieces, some of which hang on the studio walls.

But she was ready to move on from a near-lifetime of dabbing a fine brush in acrylics.

“I had grown tired of it,” Dillard says. “I had run out of steam and enthusiasm. I wanted to make things but I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

Then she came across a story about a barn quilt trail in Highland County, Va., and knew she had found the answer, one that allowed her to combine her talents with support for the public library.

“We have had great success with the barn quilts; the community loves them,” says Letha Persinger, director of the Craig County Library. “We have some patrons who have bought two or three. Our barn quilt trail is very popular as well with visitors.”

The barn quilt field is relatively young, less than 20 years old. Donna Sue Graves, an Ohio woman, is considered to be the founding mother of the movement, coming up with the concept to honor her mother and her Appalachian heritage. Graves proposed the first quilt trail, where motorists could take their Sunday drives past a rich array of patterns and themes.

Dillard traveled to Ohio to see barn quilts firsthand and drew on her own research and experience to personalize her endeavor. At first, Barn Quilts for Books operated largely under the radar, but she got a major boost when the late T. Marshall Hahn Jr., a former Virginia Tech president, found out about her creations.

Hahn collected folk art at his home on a farm outside of Blacksburg. He wanted seven quilts, including some
with maroon and orange Hokie colors. It was a perfect fit, Dillard recalls.

“He wanted them up by football season because all the football traffic went by his house to avoid Interstate 81. Then, there was an article in one of the magazines that a lot of people saw, and it just became kind of word of mouth,” she says.


One benefit of quilt-making, Dillard notes, is that she is no longer painting something that she hopes someone will appreciate or purchase. Guesswork is at a minimum; about 90% of her would-be buyers already have a design or theme in mind.

“They’re preplanned or pre-sold,” she says. “You don’t have to try to figure out what somebody wants on their wall. You just paint what they already love.”

Like a client who collects and sells farm equipment and is fascinated with old-style Cockshutt tractors, which were phased out more than 40 years ago. Working from a picture, Dillard fashioned an 8-by-8-foot quilt for him.

Technically speaking, that’s not a pattern in the tradition of, say, geometric designs from Pennsylvania’s Dutch country, which is known worldwide for quilting.

But if someone has an idea, Dillard is more than happy to bring it to life.

One client wanted a barn quilt of a bird as a cherished reminder of her childhood. “She wanted a redbird,” Dillard says. “When she was a little girl, her mother told her that when she wrote Santa, she should clip it to the clothesline and the redbird would take it to Santa Claus. And she said, ‘I still think the redbird brings messages from him.’ So, we worked to find the right size, the right images to go on her barn.”

Another quilt is visible from Interstate 81 near Radford. It’s an intricate double wedding ring, which is a popular quilt style. Dillard’s client received a woven-style quilt for her 1963 marriage, but the fabric hasn’t stood up to the test of time. The one on the barn will.

“I made the barn quilt for her and she is so happy,” Dillard says. “People say, ‘But you don’t get paid.’ I say, ‘I get paid in the joy that people show — and you cannot buy this — when they walk in and see the finished product.’”


For Dillard, the blade is as important as the brush. She carves designs with a utility knife, applies masking tape to the relevant area, and then trims the tape so she can paint in a precise area. Her studio looks like a color wheel gone wild, with just about every possible permutation of paint kept in recyclable containers.

Once the pattern is in hand, production can take a couple of weeks, though that varies depending on the complexity of the project or a work backlog. Dillard prefers a semigloss exterior latex for her quilts.

“It’s house paint so you have a certain fluidity. You want to be as uniform as possible and try to use really smooth brush strokes so that it will be a flat color, which is what shows up better. I’m making a sign, after all. This is a sign and it needs to be read from a distance.”

The material holds up well in inclement weather. A quilt on a small building behind the county library has been up since 2014, facing south in full sun. “It’s red, green, yellow and blue, and it’s not faded at all. It still looks perfect. So, I keep telling people I can’t guarantee these things, but I think they’re going to last for at least 10 years,” Dillard says.

Prices vary depending on size — a 2-foot square is $125 and an 8-foot square is $450, with in-between sizes as well. The price covers the materials and library donation; Dillard adds a small fee for intricate design work.

And Dillard always keeps an eye open for new destinations. “As I drive down the road, there are places where I keep thinking, ‘I should knock on their door and see if I can put one up there.’ It’s amazing fun.”

For more information, visit

Blazing the Barn Quilt Trail

Our region is home to some fascinating barn quilt trails. Here are some sightseeing options you can do without leaving your car.


Some 50 barn quilts — and the number is growing — dot the highways and backroads of this New River Valley County. You’ll find many of them along Va. 42, which bisects the county from northeast to southwest. The New Castle and Newport areas are particular hot spots. Three barn quilts are visible north of New Castle at White Oak Hill Farm, which also has camels on the property.


The Blue Ridge Barn Quilt Tour is said to be the largest in Virginia with more than 100 works of art featured on barns, fences and houses in 80-plus locations. It started in 2016 with a push from the Art Guild of Greene County Economic Development and Tourism. Several are visible off U.S. 33 as you head to Skyline Drive. Like other tours, this one is self-guided.

“Cotton Boll”
Eastern Shore


This is a little different but worth a look when you’re on the Eastern Shore. Caroline County hosts the Byway Quilt Trail, which features about 15 barn quilt block replicas at historic sites along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. Several agencies put it together in honor of the Tubman centennial. Volunteers painted each composite material quilt by hand. They all tie into the Underground Railroad.


Known as Virginia’s Switzerland, this county has maintained an active barn quilt tour for several years. Nearly three dozen quilts catch visitors’ eyes, with several interesting ones along U.S. 220 north and south of the town of Monterey. Margie Boesch has been the most prolific barn quilt producer in Highland; her Jacob’s Ladder on Mountain Turnpike honors the late owner of the farm that it sits on. and click on “Barn Quilt Trails.”


One of the newest additions, the Loudoun County Barn Quilt Trail opened in 2018. A variety of rural treasures are mounted on the sides of old barns, some of which are today used for diverse purposes such as a brewery and crafts display.


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Craig County Public Library Wins ALA’s First Penguin Random House Award for Innovation through Diversity Award

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CHICAGO — The Craig County Public Library, New Castle, Virginia, has been named the 2019 winner of the first ALA’s Penguin Random House Award for Innovation Through Adversity Award. The award, supported by the Penguin Random House Foundation, recognizes U.S. libraries and staff who overcome adversity and create lasting innovative community service programs that successfully inspire and connect with new readers.

The Craig County Public Library is being honored for their program Barn Quilts for Books.  This tiny library is only 30 x 40 square feet and has the lowest per capita expenditure by local government of any library in the state of Virginia. Volunteers play a critical role within the library.

What started as an art project for the library has grown into an important economic partnership between the Library and the Craig County Tourism board. Local artist and former library board member Martha Dillard created the Barns Quilts for Books Program to bring additional revenue and attention to the library. Realizing that additional funding for materials and programming would bring in new users and provide a steady stream of income, the ambitious project was begun.

Martha asked area residents about the history of their farms and what kind of quilt patterns they loved. While the term ‘barn quilt’ seemingly implies the need for a large dairy, horse, or hay barn, this just isn’t the case. This traditional art could be featured on smaller outbuildings like sheds, fences or as yard signs. Sponsors choose patterns that honor a special individual or memorialize a favorite family tradition or heirloom quilt. Others choose designs that speak to work or hobbies. Some just like the appeal of a certain design. Prices ranged from $125 to $450.

As beautiful barn art popped up all over the county, the demand rose accompanied by family stories and their deep roots in the county. All the funds from painting the barn quilts went to the library. Soon the Barn Quilts for Books Trail became a local tourist attraction with maps being produced and Martha leading bus tours and sharing the history behind each quilt. All bringing more folks into the library. Students at the local high school are working on a barn quilt for the library’s “used book barn.”

The program has raised over $10,000 for the library, as well as celebrating local history. Due to the success of the program, the library is now planning an expansion which will be home to the local visitors center.

The learn more about the program go to

The annual award, consisting of $10,000 and a citation of achievement, will be presented at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. in June.

The Penguin Random House Foundation has also generously funded five runner-up awards consisting of $1,000 worth of materials for each libraries. The runners up are: PS11X The Highbridge School, NY, NY; Long Branch Free Public Library, Long Branch, New Jersey; Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Kansas; John G. McCullough Free Library, Bennington, Vermont; and the Northwest Regional Library System, Port St. Joe, Florida.

Members of the 2019 Scholastic Library Publishing Award committee are: Chair Andrea R. Lapsley, Colorado State University, Colorado; Skip Dye, Penguin Random House, New York; Susan Henricks, Carnegie-Stout Public Library, Iowa; Kevin Reynolds, Wofford College, South Carolina; and Patricia H. Smith, Austin, Texas.

More information about the Penguin Random House Award for Innovation Through Adversity Award including how to submit a nomination, is available on the ALA website (

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Craig County Resource Center

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We are bursting at the seams! Our 800 square foot library can no longer fit all the requests that walk through our doors. We have a strong mission, defined by our users, but not enough space to fulfill it.

A plan of action is in the works. A Comprehensive Plan was completed in January 2018 after public meetings, in-put from stakeholders, fact-finding field trips, space-needs defined, funding sources identified and business plan were all developed. As we pursued more grants, we further refined the initial Comprehensive Plan, identifying more partners for services and resources, engaging more stakeholders into the conversation, and fine tuning what was the strongest fit for our community.

Presently we are applying for funds through Department of Housing and Community Development: Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Grant and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Women’s Foundation, Roanoke Valley Gives, and Cabell Foundation. If successful, the owner, Craig County will provide only 2% of the cost of building The Resource Center.

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Friends of the Library Annual Meeting

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Friends of the Library Annual Meeting, at the *Brick Hotel*

                                     May 22, 6:30 p.m.

→   Guest Speaker:  Dr. Mary Ashby McDonald

Dr. McDonald will read a passage from her recently published book, The Magnet. “McDonald points the reader to a “Magnet” who collects the deadly remainders from our pasts, leading to the healing of our own hearts.” The Magnet is McDonald’s touching journey and a must read for anyone who loves animal stories, struggles with childhood trauma, or just needs to know that there is hope for a better life. She and her husband, Jack, live in Catawba, where they are restoring a historic farm. She is also author of the bestseller Starting and Running Your Own Horse Business.

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Amazon Smiles Charity Donations

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  • Empowering individuals to build
    a stronger community.


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