HISTORY OF LAWRENCE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY
Prior to 1954 Library facilities were nonexistent, consisting solely of “pack horse” distribution of a few books as a WPA project during the thirties. The first step toward public library facilities was taken on September 3, 1954, when the Lawrence County Fiscal Court accepted the gift of a small bookmobile from Boyd County, given through the State Department of Libraries at Frankfort. The Fiscal Court adapted the gift or a resolution to establish a library in Lawrence County, and steps were taken to organize the library on a functional basis. The job of directing such an organization was delegated to a Library Board, originally mapped by Dr. F.S. Shely, Mr. W.T. Moore, Mrs. T.W. Greer, Mrs. Hugh Kings-more, and Mr. William A. Cheek.
The primary problems of the fledgling organization were those of logistics and finance; books were needed, as was a place to store them, in addition to the finances with which to hire personnel and cover operating expenses. All support at this time was entirely voluntary, but with contributions from the Fiscal Court, Board of Education, Rotary Club, the City of Louisa, and some State aid the program was launched. November of 1954 saw the first circuits by the little green bookmobile, piloted by Mrs. Howard H. Moore, the organization’s first employee. Despite the recurring monetary shortages, and the fact that books were stored only in cardboard boxes on the floor of the American Legion Hall, all rural schools and much of the rural Lawrence County were supplied with the beneficial influences of books. That first year, the bookmobile covered almost 8,000 miles on a schedule of two days per week. Circulation was officially 8,544, but the scarcity of literature in the rural areas and the enthusiasm with which the books were received suggests that each book was passed from hand-to-hand several times for each check out period. An estimate has set the actual circulation as 19,000, and seems reasonable under these circumstances.
The years 1955-59 were beset with many difficulties. The old gremlins of logistics and finances remained as primary problems, with no relief in sight. Financial aid was slow or non-existent incoming; equipment was wearing out; sources of new books were limited to the State Department of Libraries and private donations.
But improvements were made; the library headquarters moving first to a small house, donated rent-free by Mrs. Reba Shannon. Here residents of Louisa gained access to the Library. For the first time, the building being staffed for a few hours each week by volunteers. Another move was made later in the period back to the American Legion Hall, located on the courthouse lawn. This provided much needed additional space for more browsing room and storage areas for bookmobile supplies. By 1959 the Library consisted of 6,702 volumes having an official circulation of 35,265, not including the aforementioned phenomenon of hand-to-hand circulation.
The survival of a Lawrence County Library, in a form was to this point uniquely a Lawrence County effort. Books, financial aid, and direction were furnished to some extent by the State of Kentucky, but the burden of making the venture succeed rested solely on the people of Lawrence County. Civic organizations, county and city governmental bodies, the Lawrence County Board of education, private individuals and even students pitched in and helped. Many times the organization seemed on the verge of collapsing, but help always came when most needed.
In 1959 marked the beginning of a transitional period in the history of the Lawrence County Library. It was becoming increasingly clear that voluntary aid, though valuable in itself, could not sufficiently support Lawrence County’s need for library service. The necessarily sporadic nature of such support could not be sufficient to maintain regular functioning of the Library, which required a firm financial foundation for operation. To continue Library service in Lawrence County, it was determined that a county tax was necessary, and the machinery was set in motion to provide this support. The years 1959-63 mark the campaign for a Library tax, culminating with a petition of 3,000 signatures to place this question on the ballot.
Passage of the tax question in the Fall of 1963 marked the beginning of the present stage of Library development. Backed by the base of a secure income, a new building was planned, and greatly improved services became a reality. Greatly improved State aid became available once the firm foundation of the library became a reality. Also as a result of the County’s forward looking attitude, Lawrence County became a center of Library activity for this entire area.
A full list of those assisting or participating in these early and transitional stages of the Lawrence County Library would fill many pages.
In 1974 and addition was built to the library bringing at total to 7,004 square feet to be used by community groups and library program, along with added storage space. 1984 other remodeling included new roof, new units of cooling and heating. 1988 other remodeling changed the library again.
Lawrence County’s bookmobile service began the fall of 1954. This service continues both summer and winter.
by Faye Moore
This column was copied and condensed from the Lawrence County History Book.