The decade of the 1950's opened with Kenton County having two separate libraries operating in the county. The Covington Library was entering its sixth decade of service to the residents of Covington and to many users outside of the city who paid an annual fee to the library. The Erlanger-Elsmere Public Library provided service from a house on Garvey Avenue in Elsmere. Since 1942, this library had been under the management of the Erlanger Woman's Club. Before the decade ends, the county will have a third source of library service as well.
During the 1950's, although not a part of the Covington Public Library, the Erlanger-Elsmere Library was growing. The Erlanger Woman's Club oversaw the daily routine of the library. The cities of Erlanger and Elsmere contributed a minimal amount to support library service. In the early 1950's this amount was about $200 per year. This amount of funding was woefully inadequate for the library's survival. Throughout the year, the Woman's Club held fundraisers at the library and around the city to obtain money to buy new books. All staff members were volunteers. In addition to members of the Woman's Club, many area high school students worked as volunteers at the library. Together, their dedication brought dependable service. As the decade began, the Erlanger-Elsmere Library housed more than 7,500 books and checked out over 1,000 books per month.
Although the library was known as the Erlanger-Elsmere Public Library, the population served by this small library was quite large. Library users hailed from all the surrounding suburbs including Crestview Hills, Edgewood and Florence.
Mrs. Mayo Taylor, the librarian of the Erlanger-Elsmere Library developed plans to make the library a more permanent fixture in the area. While the library was operating out of a room of a house located at 3 Garvey Avenue, the Woman's Club planned to form a library board and to raise funds to purchase a permanent home for the Library.
In 1955, the Woman's Club asked the cities of Erlanger and Elsmere to each provide the names of two people to serve on the Board of Trustees for the Erlanger-Elsmere Public Library. These four, in compliance with the state laws governing public libraries, would appoint the fifth and final board member. The State Library Extension Division then officially recognized this board.
Immediately after the Board's formation, the Library began a drive to find a permanent home for the Library. A little more than one year after the formation of this Board, the Erlanger Woman's Club purchased a home at 9 Bartlett Avenue. Funds for this building were raised by the Woman's Club, the Erlanger Lion's Club, the Tuesday Evening Woman's Club and the Bettie Carter Morgan Woman's Club. Mr. and Mrs. Roy Klein, the previous owners of the house at 9 Bartlett also contributed. Contributions of supplies and building materials such as lumber were received from many businesses in the area.
During the same period, the Covington Library continued to grow. Both the adult and juvenile collection increased in circulation and the school deposit libraries expanded in use. Eleven major and six minor deposits were housed in both public and parochial schools.
A minor setback occurred for Covington Library users. The County did not appropriate funds for the use of the Library by residents outside of Covington, so free Library service was withdrawn
for those not living in the city. A Covington businessman sent a letter to the Board stating how upset he was that he, as Covington business owner but non-resident, should have to pay for the use of the Library.
In 1950, the Covington Public Library was established under the provisions of the Kentucky Revised Statutes which covered public libraries in cities of the 2nd and 6th classes. By-laws and rules were established that set guidelines under which the Library must operate. These articles included: the selection of officers, the date of annual and monthly Board meetings, formation of various committees, the hiring of librarians and the order of business. The Library was to also follow two rules: to be open to every man, woman and child in the city of Covington and to others in Kenton County (with a fee) and to guarantee any County resident all Library privileges upon the presentation of an application and proof of residency.
Also in the 1950's, the Covington Library increased the variety of materials it offered. In 1950 a microfilm reader was purchased for $298. In 1957 the Library received a big boost as more funds were appropriated from the city. These funds were used to purchase much needed reference books. 1957 was the busiest year of the Library to that date. Phonographs and records were purchased and started circulating in 1959.
Physical changes to the Library included converting the Lecture Room into an adult reading room. The Christopher Gist Society purchased 24 folding chairs and gray shelving for the room and the Society began to hold its monthly meetings in this room. Additional changes included redecorating six of the Library's second floor rooms in 1954. That same year the Children's Room obtained new shelving, a new desk and new tables.
In October 1954 the Covington Library was given special mention at the Kentucky Library Association's Annual Conference for "it's progressive work during the years of 1953 and 1954."
In 1953, there was great discussion about the use of bookmobiles to serve those living in rural areas. During the annual meeting of the Kentucky Library Association, several county libraries signed up for book mobile service. According to an article published by the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, 80 percent of rural Kentuckians had no free public library service and 47 of 120 counties in Kentucky has no access to books. The need to serve these outlying areas generated a great deal of interest by several of the state's wealthiest business leaders. In November 1953 a "Citizens March for Books" was organized in Louisville. More than 600,000 books were collected that evening to fill the bookmobiles.
Many librarians across the state however were reluctant to apply for a bookmobile due to the $3,000 needed for annual support. Librarian Rebecca Cox was undecided about the service at this time. But on March 22, 1953 with funding from the Kenton County Fiscal Court bookmobile service was established for rural area of Kenton County. The bookmobile contained more than 3,000 books and made stops at a variety of areas throughout the county.
The other major development during this decade was the hiring of a librarian from Cincinnati. In 1958, Ms. Rebecca Cox retired after 18 years of service as head librarian. Ms. Mary Ann Mongan, a graduate of the University of Kentucky and former librarian for the city of Newport, was hired to replace Ms. Cox. There was quite an outcry from Covington area residents that an "outsider" was hired for Covington. Ms. Mongan would direct the Library for the next 40 years.