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 Girard 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 and was instrumental in securing a library for Boone County. She served on Boone County Public Library’s first Board of Trustees.
Ginny, I don’t live in Florence any more but I can remember going to the Cincinnati Public Library when I needed something that Boone County High School didn’t have! I am so glad that there is a library now! Also, my last name is Bernstein and I knew your parents! Three of my brothers still live in Florence! Thank you again for being there for the community!
So glad it happened. I can’t imagine a world without a library. Not only for my job but for the books, movies,etc.
I remember working at the polls on a cold November day passing out information on the library tax. So happy when the tax passed! Our library system has grown into something great we should all be proud of. And use extensively!!
Lived in that building as pre teen… sadly someone stole my bike while I was inside.
Great story Ginny. The library has played an important role in my family since it opened. So glad for the efforts of ABLE and all of those who supported the cause!
I remember it opening when I was 14. I will say though that until it did open we went and got library books from a converted house in Erlanger. So it probably was still the Kenton County library but this one was closer than Covington.
Thank You, Ginny, for your effort. It has certainly paid off superbly. I was in the Jaycees with Don Spille and Ritsel Sparks when Dr. Lee Hess M.D. and Ted Bushelman were the Presidents. My wife, JoAnn was in the Jacettes with you and said that you were friends with her cousin Carlene Denham. A former employer Pat Art is also a friend of yours. You did a fine job. Thank You.
I wanted to know if Pam Bernstein lived at Banklick and Dixie.
Thanks for all your hard work! What year was this on the ballot? When did Mr. Lentz become involved?
The Library was on the Boone County ballot in November 1973 and the library first opened her doors on October 14, 1974. Mr. Lents was a huge library supporter from the very beginning. He actually bought the very first book for the library and donated it before it opened. He also left money to the library in his will that was used to build the Lents Branch in Hebron which opened in April 1989.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen. Gertrude Matheny, who was one the first board, was my mother and I am so very proud of her and what the board has accomplished.
Thank you for writing, Robert. We are so very grateful to your mother and all of the people who made Boone County Public Library happen! –Becky
I remember walking from Florence Elementary for a class trip, we all.signed up for library cards at the Girard St. Location. I was in first or second grade, must have been right when they opened their doors.
At that time I was having to go to Covington library history department for genealogy research. Microfiche rolls of censuses.. now thankfully Boone County libraries are well equipped ! Thank you !