The Mary D. Pretlow Anchor Branch opened as the Ocean View Branch on July 21, 1923 on the second floor of the Ocean View Branch of the Trust Company of Norfolk building on A Avenue. In 1939, it was moved into a large room in Ocean View School, the moved to its present location in 1961 and was renamed for Mary Denson Pretlow, Norfolk Public Library’s second library director.
The Pretlow Branch closed in February 2005 and reopened on April 1 at a temporary location so that a larger, regional or "anchor," library could be built on the site. Mary D. Pretlow Anchor Branch opened in 2008. The $10.8 million regional facility with 90 public computers and a huge children's area featured a 110-seat public meeting room and a wing for the Ocean View Station Museum. It was the city’s first anchor branch library.
Miss Mary Denson Pretlow became the librarian of the Norfolk Public Library in 1917, when the library board still operated as a private corporation. She oversaw the reclassification of the nonfiction collection to conform to the Dewey Decimal system, assisted in collecting enough Virginiana to open the Sargeant Memorial Room (now the Sargeant Memorial Collection) in May 1927, and grew the library system from a central library with one branch to a central library with seven neighborhood branches. Miss Pretlow retired in 1947.