Once upon a time, there was no public library in Boone County…

All stories have a beginning, and since I am the only surviving member of the first library board, I feel it is my duty to tell the tale. Once upon a time, there was no public library in Boone County. If someone wanted a book, one had to buy it or go to Covington to the Kenton County Library.

At the time, I was the president of the Boone County Jaycettes, the feminine arm of the Jaycees.  “Where is the library?” asked Mary Margaret Garies, a new member whose husband had been transferred with his job. She found it hard to believe that a county that was growing with new industries and a burgeoning population had no library. We agreed to do something about it.  We sat down and began to brainstorm.

Boone County needs a library. I knew we needed a go-getter, someone who was active in the community and got things done, someone who cared about the healthy growth of our county. Having worked with Ted Bushelman in the Jaycees, I knew he was that someone, and so I asked Ted to join us in our worthy endeavor.  He agreed, and we began to meet regularly.  We spread the word, and our group grew.  We chose the name, ABLE, the Association for Boone Library Encouragement. Through networking, others joined us from organizations like the Lions Club, Florence Women’s Club, Rotary Club and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Effective communication was a necessity, so we formed a speakers’ bureau.  Carol Ackley, Don Ravencraft, Ted and I created a presentation that highlighted the reasons a library would be a boon to the county.  Persuading voters to agree to a new tax was paramount.  We were ready for any negative question with a positive answer and spoke to any group who would have us.

In order to get the library issue on the ballot, we learned we had to have 1500 signatures on a petition.  So, we walked door-to-door asking for support.  After reaching the quota, we spent many hours in the courthouse verifying that each signature was valid.

We needed a slogan, simple and direct.  “I Want a Library!” became our mantra. Many lapels sported our campaign buttons that had a white background with the slogan in bold, dark blue letters.

At the same time, there was a faction in the county that wanted a new jail.  That, too, was going to be on the ballot. A few of the politicians were not very happy with us.  One told me “…not to screw up his jail issue”.  Another warned me that my property value could easily be reappraised so I would have to pay a higher tax.  A local businessman angrily said, “My kids will never use a library, but they might be in a jail.”

In mid-September, I had to have back surgery and was hospitalized for 30 days due to complications.  It was a good thing I had a phone in my room, (no cell phones then) because Ted and I talked several times each day, planning and keeping track of how the movement was progressing.

As we neared election-day, we enlisted the help of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.  What a wonderful day it was as we watched those young people addressing postcards and folding pamphlets asking for support for the library issue.  I can still hear them cheering, “We want a library! We want a library! We want a library!”  The community had become involved, and “Library” was the buzzword wherever we went.  Many had gotten on-board promoting the issue;  many churches and organizations helped as the issue gained momentum.  Phil Carrico, the district librarian, was invaluable with his advice and support.

Election-day arrived.  I was on edge all day.  My mother and father, Roy and Elizabeth Nestor, kept our son, David, while I and my husband, Harold, went to the courthouse to wait for the votes to be tallied.  After the final count, Boone County WAS GOING TO HAVE ITS LIBRARY. The voters overwhelmingly supported the new tax that would pay for their own facility.  I remember crying and jumping up and down.  Two years of preparation and work had paid off.  A reporter from one of the radio stations came over to me and asked me to make a comment.  I remember saying, “I’m so thrilled the community wanted this. So many people of all ages worked long and hard for this cause. Now, Boone County is going to have its own library.”

The newly-appointed board consisted of Ted Bushman–president, Ginny Kohl–vice president, along with Don Ravencraft from Hebron, Emily Reeves–Florence and Gertrude Matheny–Burlington.  Our financial advisor was John Brockett.  We interviewed applicants for librarian and hired Jane Smith, who worked for the library system until her retirement of recent.  With Phil Carrico’s help, along with Charles Hinds, the state librarian, we went to work to find a temporary facility.  Mr. Nelson Markesbery had a boat shop and garage on Girrard Street that fit the bill.  He agreed to rent it to us, knowing that we would adapt it to accommodate our needs.  Kenton County gave us old shelves from its library, along with a desk, card catalog and books.  The state supplemented our supply of reading materials.  Soon, we were in business, and the Boone County Public Library opened its doors.

Thankfully, this library system’s story has no ending.  It continues to unfold with growth and great success.  I am sure we, Boone Countians, will enjoy its services and live happily together ever after.


Virginia Nestor Kohl (Ginny) is a retired teacher.  She was the Forensics coach at Boone County High School and directed the school’s plays and musicals.  Ginny taught English, interpersonal communications, speech, and drama.  She was also the yearbook sponsor.  She was married for 50 years to the late Harold Douglas Kohl.  Her son, David, teaches at Boone County High School, as well as her daughter-in-law, Krista.  Ginny has two grand-children, Ethan and Eliza, who are sophomores there.


Remembering the Library’s Early Days

As an associate in the Local History Department, I focus on Boone County’s history throughout my workday. When the occasion of the library’s 40th anniversary grew near, I began to look at the history of this institution and its impact on me personally.  There is a full-circle feel to what I do, that has not escaped me since my tenure as an employee of the library began.

A lot has changed in Boone County since my family moved here from Louisville in the early 1970s. At that time in our county, we were definitely gearing up for growth.  The industrial park was flourishing, bringing businesses to the area, the airport was expanding, and the Florence Mall was on the verge of being born.  Though all of these things were important community builders, I was not even old enough to go to school yet, so they didn’t make my top ten list.  Trips to the library, however, rank very highly.

My memories of our earliest years here, spent in a tiny house on Girard Street, revolve around typical childhood experiences: learning to ride a bike, playing in the (equally tiny) back yard, and going to the library.  girard with GS aged photo rgb As luck would have it, in 1974 the first library was opened in the feed store, directly across the street from our little house.  If I’m honest, I really don’t have clear memories of the opening, what I remember is the excitement of all of the adults.  For years, I’ve heard family and friends affectionately joke about the chosen location of the first public library.  The funny thing is, it was always spoken of with pride of accomplishment, not criticism.  My takeaway from these comments has always been that we wanted this library system, no matter where it was.  It was really a brilliant choice, given the agricultural nature of our community. Why not pick up a book when you stop for sweet feed?

Until the opening of the first public library here, residents would need to go to Covington or Cincinnati for library services, so this was a huge development in Boone County. Thanks to the 1973 grass-roots effort of a few very determined folks in the citizen’s group A.B.L.E. (Association for Boone Library Encouragement), a library tax was placed on the ballot, and the wheels were set in motion. With the approval of the tax, funding was in place to hire young librarian Jane Smith, and set up the temporary branch. The planning of the first permanent structure began on U.S. 42 in Florence.

When the Florence Branch was open for business in 1976, my friends and family became regular visitors. My family loves to read, so having access to so many books was fabulous, but the choices didn’t end there.  There were story times, craft projects and albums at the library.  Yes, kids, vinyl albums. My brother and I reached our maximum item limit easily with everything from top 40 collections to one very scary Halloween album; we each checked that one out multiple times.  My mother was in graduate school at the time, so the library offered her valuable resources and even more valuable entertainment for the kids.

Our experience surely mirrors that of other Boone County families through the years, as our library system has grown with the community. We now have six branches to reach the folks in all corners of Boone County, as well as outreach programs.  We offer access to: history and genealogy research, technology and instruction, a variety of programming for all ages and interests, and a dynamic collection that is always adapting to community wants and needs.

Forty years later, here I am, as a library associate and loyal patron, enjoying an unbelievable amount of resources and programs with my own children.


Hillary Delaney is a Local History Associate at Boone County Public Library. She is a Boone County native, but has also lived in Richmond, VA, where she attended Virginia Commonweath University to study journalism. Hillary moved back to her hometown of Florence in 2007, with her husband and two children. Her lifelong love of all things historic brought her to her current position at BCPL.