Library celebrates 125 years in Boyle County

Published 7:27 pm Friday, December 28, 2018

When the Danville Library Association was formed in 1893, its original members paid $3 apiece and were able to accumulate around 300 books. I.V. Huffman was the main catalyst for creation of the subscription library, which would officially open its doors in the early months of 1894.

Out of those humble beginnings grew what is today the Boyle County Public Library, which celebrated its 125th anniversary Friday.

Library Director Georgia de Araujo said the 300 books initially acquired by Huffman and the library members would fill around three or four display shelves in the modern library’s main lobby.

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“By comparison, today, we’ve got 130,000 print books, and I’m sure Mr. Huffman would have no idea what we’re talking about, but we have about 170,000 downloadable books,” de Araujo said. “So things have really changed in 125 years.”

Ben Kleppinger/
Festive balloons decorate the main staircase in the Boyle County Public Library during the library’s 125th anniversary celebration Friday.

One of the biggest changes came in 1971, when the library finally transitioned to being a free public library. That was possible “because the people in Boyle County decided that it was important enough to sign a petition to create a public library taxing district,” de Araujo said.

“So in 1971, the ability of the library to provide services just exploded — it became enormous,” she said. “And we are grateful every day to the taxpayers and residents of Boyle County because we appreciate the trust that the citizens of Boyle County put in the library. Everything we do is in honor of that trust.”

To celebrate the anniversary, the library had a two-hour party with cake and refreshments. Kids could have a balloon and visitors could tour an exhibit about the library’s history in the Mahan Gallery. There was also a library scavenger hunt; a “vision board” where people could leave suggestions for what they’d like to see the library do in the future; and a walking tour in downtown Danville of many locations where the library has been over the years.

The library also has a new booklet, edited by library staff member Mary Girard, “125 Years of Library History,” which compiles much of what is known about the library’s past including:

• “Children’s story time began in 1911 under the direction of librarian Laura Downton.”

• “Elizabeth Tunis, affectionately known as ‘Miss Bess,’ was hired as librarian in 1918 … she served in the position for 50 years, a span of time more than twice the combined tenures of Letty Green, Laura Downton, Eliza Montgomery and Louise Cook, the four librarians who preceded her.”

• Tunis “established the ‘Paul Dunbar Branch Library for Colored People’ in 1922. … African-Americans did not gain access to the main Danville library until 1956.”

• “Grace Gettinger became Boyle County’s first Bookmobile librarian in 1970 and served until mid-1978.”

Ben Kleppinger/
Alexis Angolia, left, and Nancy Ketelhohn cut the cake for the celebration.

• “The BCPL Friends of the Library was created in 1979. In September of that year, a member of the Danville Library Board, Annabel Girard, announced that a ‘Friends of the Library’ group would be organized. … Their membership dues and monetary contributions have paid for innumerable pieces of equipment on the library’s ‘wish list.’ Every change in technology at the library has had the financial support of the Friends of the Library.”

• “In 1983, the Boyle County Public Library facilitated the creation of a library at Northpoint Training Center, a medium security prison. The prison library was a joint venture between the Department of Libraries and Archives and the Kentucky Department of Corrections, with the Boyle County Public Library acting in an advisory capacity.”

• “In 2004, the library boards reaffirmed the decisions to remain downtown and began laying plans for again doubling the size of the building. The cost for construction of the new expansion would far exceed that of the 1989 expansion. Knowing that the library’s ability to issue bonds to finance the project would top out at $5.6 million, the boards undertook a capital campaign in September 2007. The goal of the fundraising committee … was $2 million in private funds. By the end of their work, they had raised over $2.8 million.”

• “Expansion involved acquiring several buildings, including the Mahan house, the old First Baptist Church and the church education building. The First Baptist Church congregation voted to build on a different site and was able to relocate many of the features and fixtures of the building to their new location. The library purchased the remaining shell and razed the property in order to make room for the 27,000-square-foot addition. The Mahan house, circa 1850, was incorporated into the new library and now serves as meeting space, office space and an art gallery.”

• “As the library continues through its second century of service, new digital formats are coming into use. Digital materials may offer the way to dramatically expand the library’s collections without requiring the addition of physical space to house them. Issues of copyright, creative ownership, fair use and licensing will continue to shape the future of technological change in libraries.”