At the end of the first decade of the 1900s, head librarian Anna Spears wanted to experiment with a library “station” in Latonia. Ms. Spears arranged for 150 books to be available for check out at Pope’s Drugstore. If interest proved sufficient, a branch library would be considered for Latonia.
In February of 1910, the Library Board submitted a request that the representatives of Kenton County in the Kentucky Legislature “use their utmost influence to secure the passage of a bill pending before the Legislature to create a Library Commission for the state of Kentucky.” A Library Commission would support and lobby for libraries throughout the state. This Library Commission was the forerunner of today’s Department for Libraries and Archives.
In 1911, the circulation for the Library was 84,914. With new books arriving all of the time, more people became interested in library service. The auditorium was in great demand for use by groups such as the Board of Education and the Covington Lecture Club. Children’s services were growing and becoming more popular. Funds were spent to purchase display cases, photographs and other items to improve the appearance of the Library. In the following years, the Library contracted to have a pay phone for public use and a public drinking fountain was also installed.
The big story in December of 1911 was a robbery at the Covington Library. Covington officers noticed the break in and soon discovered that $10 in small change was missing. The week prior, the Newport Library was also burglarized.
With the start of 1912, Covington Mayor Pat Phillips declared his wishes for everyone in Kenton County to enjoy library service. He emphasized that he wanted “country people” to have equal library benefits as those who lived in the city. During that time, non-residents of Covington paid a fee of $2 to use the Library. If county commissioners agreed to supplement the Library’s funding, all Kenton County residents could use the Library with no fee assessed. Additionally, with more funding, the Library could purchase more books and a suburban branch library could be considered.
In 1912, Miss Kate Scudder and Reverend J.A. Hagin were appointed to the Library Board. Miss Scudder was a highly regarded socialite and philanthropist. Reverend Hagin was the very popular pastor of First Covington Church.
Slides became a popular item for checkout, primarily to local educators. More than 2,300 were checked out from January to September in 1912. Overall, the amount of slides circulated was not surpassed by any other library in the state of Kentucky. As popular as they were, the Board approved a motion for a dark room to be installed in the basement of the Covington Library to produce slides of a local nature.
In October 1912, an epidemic of diphtheria forced the city’s Health Department to close the Library. Books that had been in homes contaminated with diphtheria were burned. All books in circulation were fumigated. A motion was brought before the Board to purchase sulfur candles for fumigation purposes. During the same period, the Anti-Tuberculosis Society was granted permission to place a health information flyer in each Library book.
The Library opened a book deposit station in Seventh District School, giving school children the opportunity to use library services. Several months later, similar stations were established at Latonia High School and Lincoln Grant School was granted.
Letters to the editor of the Kentucky Post urged the Library Board to consider being open on Sunday. An excerpt from one letter stated, “Sunday……is the only day in the week in which the laboring man has the time to avail himself to visit…”. No action was taken by the Board to open on Sunday until the mid 1990s.
One major problem for the Library was the condition of the highly popular auditorium. The city building instructor inspected the auditorium and noted that it was in dire need of major reconstruction. He sited that fireproof walls needed to be added, steps needed to be modified, additional exits added, red light exit signs installed, rails rebuilt and ventilation improved. At least $10,000 would be needed to repair the auditorium. In August of 1914, the auditorium was ordered closed until repairs could be made.
As a requirement for his original for his contribution to build the Library, Andrew Carnegie insisted that the city support the Library with adequate funding. Throughout the years, the city had been deducting the amount received by the Board for rental of the auditorium. The Board requested full funding of $8,500 from the city to comply with Carnegie’s request. These additional funds were used in part to repair the auditorium which was repaired and reopened in June 1915. Unfortunately the repairs caused great strain on the Library’s finances so no funds were available to purchase books and periodical subscriptions were curtailed.
A request was made to display artwork from local artists and Mr. Duveneck’s work was under consideration. However, Mr. Duveneck was not able to donate any of his artwork during this period of time.
The Library continued to grow in popularity as the decade progressed. The Library participated in the war effort during World War II. In 1917 an appeal was made for books to be sent to soldiers. It was asked that each person who donated a book put in his or her name and address in the book so the soldier knows he has a friend in Covington who is willing to help. More than 2000 books were collected and sent to the troops. Third Assistant Librarian Schramm was drafted and abruptly called to service. Patriotic organizations regularly used the auditorium.
As a tribute to his support of libraries everywhere, the Board purchased a bust of Andrew Carnegie for the Covington Library. Upon his death in August 1919 the Library closed in honor of his memory. He would have been pleased to know that in 1919, the Covington Library circulated more than 100,000 books.