Boyd County Library District: A Short History
John Means Collection
As early as the 1870’s Ashland residents expressed a need for reading. The first mentioned lending library was from the personal collection of John Means (who would later become Mayor of Ashland). Over the next four decades, various upper floors in the downtown area served as free libraries, operated by various individuals or volunteer groups.
In February 1914, a subscription library was started in the Gray and Poor Store on Winchester Avenue; the first Librarian was Miss Hilton. According to records the first book cataloged was Fisherman’s Luck by Henry Van Dyke published in 1913. In 1920 the library was moved to the home of a local teacher, Miss Sallie Martin, who also used her home for a Kindergarten. This library lasted for many years and its’ collection was added to the WPA library that was to be built later.
Ashland Memorial Library Association
In December 1930, the Ashland Memorial Library Association was organized to establish a free public library for the city. In 1935 city commissioners adopted a resolution supporting construction of a library. The land was part of Crabbe School property that the School Board deeded. Public subscriptions supplemented the WPA grants to build the library. Ground was broken on April 22, 1935 and the building opened in December 1936. On October 7, 1936 the first meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Ashland Public Library was held in the mayor’s office. At that time, the Association transferred all assets to the new organization. The first book cataloged in the records of the new library was Miss Bishop by Bess Aldrich.
Charles F. Weaver (another former Ashland Mayor) bequeathed substantial sums and property in his will to the library Association. On April 13, 1959 ground was broken for an addition to the library. This addition increased the library by 8000 square feet. This wing was in memory of the Weaver family with a total cost of $78,000.
Ashland Public Library
From 1937 to 1970 all residents of Boyd County received free service from the Ashland Public Library. The Boyd Fiscal Court started contributing to the city-supported library in 1950 then in 1970 non-Ashland resident borrowers were charged an annual fee to use the library.
Boyd County Public Library
On April 25, 1979, county petitions were presented to the fiscal court requesting that a county library district be formed. While the petitions were stalled by opponents and court cases for nearly two and a half years, it was finally accepted by the fiscal court in 1981 and the Boyd County Public Library was formed.
New, Modern Facility
In 1981, a renovation was started using funds from Mayor Weaver’s bequest, the remainder of teacher Minnie Winder’s estate, and from an Appalachian grant. This construction resulted in the demolition of the original 1936 structure, replacing it with a new and modern facility. The 1959 addition was left intact and integrated into the new facility. This renovation in 1981, along with a 1997 remodel, brought the look of the library to what it is today.
The first branch mentioned in library records is the Booker T. Washington Negro branch housed in the Booker T. Washington School from at least 1944 to approximately 1961. During the Library Petition campaign in the 1970’s commitments were made to establish branches in the county. The Summit Branch opened its’ doors in rented space on Labor Day 1982. The branch was at this location for 6 years and in November 1988 the new Summit branch opened at its new location on Summit Road. Another branch was opened on Labor Day 1983 in Catlettsburg on Louisa Street.
The Bookmobile service was begun in 1954 and thrived for many years. During the 1970’s the service was stopped due to funding problems and was begun in the 1980’s. Today the service has become an outreach service, delivering materials to home bound residents that cannot otherwise visit a library facility.
The Library Goes Online
February 22, 1999 the library went online with thebookplace.org. It serves as the library’s presence on the web and allows visitors from all over to view the catalog, programs, news, events; it also serves as a gateway for research by students of all ages through numerous databases and links. Users will find many cemetery and vital statistics indexes, testing resources, automobile and home repair instruction, along with traditional magazine articles, research tools, and a vast digital collection.
In 2006, the library opened the Reading Garden just off the Main Library. This outdoor room provides lovely setting under an umbrella, on a swing, or at a table to read a good book, access the internet, or just enjoy the outdoors. In June of 2008, the City of Ashland opened the newly constructed Library Commons. The Reading Garden provides users access to Central Park via the Library Commons.
Boyd County Library District Today
- The largest public library in eastern Kentucky
- Three branches, open seven days a week, or 9,568 hours a year
- 38,700 active borrowers
- 555,356 items borrowed per year
- Averages 21,750 visits per month
- Collection of over 154,000 physical items, plus another 800,000+ digital items
- Delivers 42,500 items to over 1,000 homebound residents
- Online branch open 24/7 at thebookplace.org
- Staff of 50 employees
Materials are available for adults and youth, from fiction to non-fiction, in a variety of formats. Physical items include books, large print, movies, audiobooks, kits (books with learning activities), PlayAways (preloaded videos), music, magazines, newspapers, comic books, games, and graphic novels. The library also has a vast digital collection of books, audiobooks, interactive tools, movies, newspapers, magazines, music, comic books, and graphic novels.
The library has several special collections: