As the Library welcomed the 1980's, the decade began with an unfortunate incident. One of the paintings by local artist Frank Duveneck was stolen from the Children's Department of the Main Library. The painting portrayed the artist's nephew Joseph and was painted at the turn of the century. Although bolted into a brick wall, the thief managed to steal the painting in the middle of the day. Newspapers covered the incident widely but no trace of the portrait has ever been seen again. It was valued at $7,800.
Circulation of materials continued to rise throughout the 1980's at both the Main Library and the Erlanger Branch. The Erlanger Branch was circulating as many, if not more, items than the Main Library. Summer programs in Erlanger were so popular with families that the meeting room often had triple the amount of people it could hold. The problem was so great that tickets needed to be distributed for future programs. Regular children's programs at Erlanger were also often filled to capacity. As the 1980's progressed, it was clear that the Erlanger Branch library was going to be very popular. On February 19, 1980 the Erlanger branch set a new record circulating 1,777 in a single day.
Growing increasingly popular as well, the Bookmobile increased the length of time spent traveling in southern Kenton County. In one year the bookmobile traveled 7,197 miles. Most of those served by the Bookmobile lived in the rural parts of Kenton County. Increasing circulation of materials on the Bookmobile made it clear that patrons in southern Kenton County used the Library.
In the mid-80's, the Board asked Library staff to do a feasibility study for constructing a branch library in the southern half of the county. A branch in the Independence area seemed likely but there was hearty debate whether a building should be located in "downtown" Independence or near the Cherokee Shopping Plaza, which was a popular spot on the Library's Bookmobile route.
Free delivery of Library materials to those who were homebound was another service created for Library patrons. Unlike the Bookmobile, the librarian would select books for the homebound patrons and deliver them directly to their homes. The outreach librarian also delivered materials to senior centers each month so residents would have new books to read.
Although the Library offered a wealth of products and services, a statistical report "Statistical Report of Kentucky Public Libraries, February 1981" stated that the Kenton County Public Library had the highest circulation per capita and the lowest cost per circulation of the state's larger libraries. This was great news to the Board. This report proved that the Library Board was using taxpayer money and providing the kind of programs and materials the residents of Kenton County demanded.
And the Library Board and staff were always looking to fulfill the needs of patrons. Library staff conducted a survey asking what types of programs people would like to see. Responses included co-op food buying, making your home energy efficient, nuclear power, genealogy and burglar-proofing your home.
The Library's staff made great efforts to reach those who did not visit the Library on a regular basis. Community outreach flourished as the head of Covington's Adult Services, Mike Averdick, worked with a variety of organizations. He conducted many seminars on researching one's family tree, worked with the Kentucky Post on creating a series entitled "Pieces of the Past" and presented workshops for teachers in the Covington School District. The material he used in these presentations was available at the Main Library in Covington, which was becoming widely known for its local history and genealogy department.
The Main Library's local history and genealogy collection were in constant use. People from all over the United States called upon the help of the history department and its resources. The department received a big boost in its photo collection when the Kentucky Post donated a large portion of their photographic files dating from 1963 to 1980.
During the eighties there was much discussion on expanding cardholder services. Regional Librarian Phil Carrico suggested that a regional library card be instituted. This card would allow residents to use libraries throughout the region. A grant to pay for this was project was awarded and regional library cards were made available in January of 1981.
Another unique service discussed was opening a library for the visually impaired. A representative from the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives discussed the agency's proposal to establish a sub-regional library for the blind and physically handicapped that would serve 8 counties in Northern Kentucky. This project would be state funded and supplied with materials from the Library of Congress. Although the Board was enthusiastic about the project, they voiced concerns over funding. They wanted to ensure that if the sub-regional library opened, it would be adequately funded for many years ahead. The state allotted $30,000 per year to run the library and on November 3, 1980 the Northern Kentucky Talking Book Library opened.
The popularity of the Talking Book Library grew dramatically. Open for less than a year the library was mailing out thousands of books each month and new readers were added in increasing numbers. During the first year more than 300 new readers received Talking Books and 22 institutions were registered for the service. The Northern Kentucky Federation for the Blind placed an illuminator in the Library that allowed the visually impaired to magnify images up to 40 times their regular size. Records indicate that the Talking Book Library was used by people of all ages, the youngest reader being 2 1/2 and the oldest patron being 102 years old.
Library funding became a great concern throughout the eighties. Under President Reagan's administration, the proposed federal budget in 1982 included no funds for public libraries. The recession made it difficult to purchase books and in her report to the Board in March 1982, Ms. Mongan stated that there were no funds to purchase any new books. Best sellers would be the only items purchased for the remainder of the fiscal year. However the books that seemed the most popular this decade were self-help books. Many of these items had long "hold" lists and the staff encouraged the Library to purchase more when funds became available.
Automating the Library's circulation system was discussed in the 1980's. Automating Library services was a topic of discussion throughout the state. There was interest growing to automate the Kenton County Public Library, however, no funds were available to undertake such a task.
After a local tax rate increase, more funds were available to the Library and in 1984 the Library was able to extend its hours of operation. The new hours, beginning January 1, 1985 would be Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Later that year, the staff of Erlanger had a minor scare as black smoke came pouring into the Branch. The Erlanger Fire Department was called and it was discovered that a person in a nearby home decided to burn brush and the smoke from the fire went into the Branch's air intake. No one was harmed but the staff and patrons were quite shaken up.
The Main Library also had a scary incident in the afternoon of March 10, 1986. A violent storm with hail and strong winds exploded through the windows of the Library. Automation coordinator Alice Clay was credited with saving several patrons seated near the windows from injury as they were ordered to move seconds before they exploded inward. The Main Library was closed for one week while books, shelves and furniture were cleaned of glass.
In May 1986, the Library began to circulate videos. Films of feature and classic movies circulated more than the informational videos. Also in the later half of the eighties computers were being used by the staff throughout the Library. The Technical Services Department used the new equipment for cataloging items while the book keeper performed in accounting procedures. The reference desk received a computer in 1988 to help answer questions that could not be found in the materials in the Library.
As the 80's progressed, so did the Library's use of computer technology. In the summer of 1989 the staff began to prepare for one of the biggest projects the Library had undertaken - automating the system so that all facets of the Library would be technologically linked. As the world was becoming more "system" oriented, so was the Library.