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. 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.