Opening of old Logan library 50 years ago to be celebrated
By Evelyn Richardson


Posted on August 4, 2017 5:04 PM



Logan County Public Library opened 50 years ago this week in a location on East Sixth Street in Russellvile. This Sunday, a tribute to that opening will be held at the new location on Armory Drive from 2-5 p.m. The following article by retired regional library director Evelyn Richardson discusses how that library came about and the celebration that as held 50 years ago Sunday.
The library had been located in the Old Southern Bank of Kentucky building at Sixth and Main. Interestingly, the library for Bethel College (that existed from 1856 to 1933) was housed in this building before a Library-Gymnasium was constructed on campus, three blocks west, in 1904.
 Arrangements were made with Mr. and Mrs. R. F. McCuddy, owners, to rent the south front room of the bank building for the library. The financial ledger that has been preserved indicates that on Feb. 28, 1967, rent of $26 was paid to the “Estate of Mrs. R. F. McCuddy” from the library account. Another check for $25 was written to Joseph H. Ehlers on the same date. Mr. Ehlers maintained his living quarters in the rear of the bank building.
Here the library remained until it moved into its new building one block west on the southwest corner of Sixth and Winter in June of 1967. Grand Opening was held Sunday, Aug. 6 and service to the public began Aug. 7. Thedocia Graham was librarian all this time from 1942 until Lillian Noe was employed in 1966 to be director of the new library. Mrs. Graham continued to work for three years in the new library as circulation librarian until she retired at the end of December 1970, after 28½ years of service. Her salary did increase over time; records show that $194.57 was paid to her for one month’s salary in February 1967.
Local legislators have been supportive of libraries and have taken a positive stand in the Kentucky General Assembly for their funding and welfare. Representatives Lewis Foster and June Lyne are to be commended. Martha Jane King secured the participation of Gov. Steve Beshear in a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony in October 2008 when the lot for a new library was purchased. Also, Sen. Nick Kafoglis of Bowling Green was a strong supporter.
 
Foundation and Building Blocks
Russellville has historically been interested in education, supporting several private schools before the days of public education and was the home of two colleges, Bethel and Logan, for more than 75 years.
Newspaperman Albert P. “Al” Smith moved to Logan County and became “temporary” editor of the News-Democrat in January 1958. He stayed on, and his perception and genuine caring for the community drove his vision. His newspaper(s) became a catalyst for getting a lot of things done in the interest of progress while he was editor and publisher. Among the causes that the newspaper supported was consolidation of the five county high schools, a thorny issue whenever and wherever this occurred in our country’s history.
One of the many “seeds” planted to grow this idea was his choosing the theme of the 1960 annual Tobacco Festival tabloid publication to reflect the history of Russellville and Logan County as an education and cultural center. A copy of this tabloid was mailed to a number of people beyond the usual subscription list who Mr. Smith thought might find it interesting. Included was Thomas Pritchett deGraffenried, a Russellville native and successful lawyer who lived in New York. He was a graduate of Bethel College and it was felt that he would enjoy a feature article on the college that was in the tabloid.
No communication transpired regarding this gesture until in 1961, after Mr. deGraffenried’s death, his estate attorney notified the City of Russellville that he had willed the City nearly one million dollars “to be used for the education of the people at large therein.”
G. Sam Milam, local attorney, was appointed to administer this legacy. Mr. Milam’s wife, Justine, who worked in his office, was one of those ladies on the first library Board/Committee who raffled a table in 1940 to raise the first funds for public library service. Her appreciation for libraries had not lessened over the years, and she with others of like mind saw this windfall of money, designated for “education,” as a means of getting an “educational institution”—a library—for “all of the people at large therein” –a supplemental partner with the school system to reach all citizens.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Logan County began to experience great industrial and economic growth, bringing in new people, new ideas, and new demands. Libraries were experiencing a period of growth throughout the state, thanks to increased State and Federal assistance for buildings, materials and services. All this brought an awakening to the need to develop cultural facilities and to pursue cultural activities.
Interested citizens and community leaders began to put thoughts into actions, and establishment of a library taxing district to support library operations became their goal. The petition method of establishment as provided in state law KRS 173.715 was followed. At least 51 percent of the total number voting in the last general election was required. Individuals circulated petitions among registered voters throughout the county in 1965. Many more names than required were secured; approximately 4,500 signed a petition that instructed Fiscal Court to create a Special Taxing District and to set a tax rate of 3 cents per $100 of assessed property valuation. These signatures were certified and presented to the Fiscal Court and the Logan County Library District was legally established Jan. 4, 1966.
With guidance and assistance from the Kentucky State Department of Libraries, the process of establishing a Board of Trustees and hiring staff was carried out. Members of the original Board and their staggered appointed terms were: H. Stanford “Chick” Ray, 4 years, president; Marcia (Mrs. William G.) Fuqua, 3 years, secretary; George Marion Bailey, 3 years, treasurer; Roger Kimball, 2 years ; and Sophie (Mrs. J. D.) Lashbrook, 2 years.
Persons who had exhibited interest and leadership in getting the tax passed were appointed to an Advisory Board: Justine (Mrs. G. Sam) Milam, Evelyn (Mrs. Henry) Russell, Mrs. Oscar Snider, Frances Mason Rice, Oscar Blue, Mrs. Byrne Evans, (and others). When Mr. Ray resigned for health reasons in October 1967, Mrs. Milam was appointed by the County Judge to fill the vacancy, and she was elected president. This was the first change in the original Board’s membership. A bronze plaque mounted in the library pays special tribute to Mrs. Milam, “who gave so generously of her time to help make this building a reality.” Al Smith was appointed to fill the vacancy created when Mrs. Milam resigned from the Board in October 1972. In this position, he was able to participate in the governance of the library service that he had played a great part in helping to make a reality. (Marcia Fuqua was elected president upon the resignation of Mrs. Milam.)
The first Board minutes are of the April 3, 1967 meeting that was held at the courthouse. Construction and furnishing of the new building had progressed to the point that the May 2 meeting and all future regular monthly meetings were held in the library.
Lillian Clark Rhea (Mrs. Thomas A. Jr.) Noe, hired in 1966, had begun taking library science courses to prepare her for administration of the library. Evelyn (Mrs. James) Richardson, although confirmed as Regional Librarian in the fall of 1966, did not begin work (or receive salary from the State) until March 1, 1967, as the new building was nearing completion. Gail (Mrs. Ted) Barth was hired by the State in April 1967, to be technical assistant in the Regional Office. Also, the local staff was completed with the hiring (April 1) of Jo Nell (Mrs. Clifton) Davis, library assistant, and Viola (Mrs. James) Carver (June 1), bookmobile librarian.
 
The Building, 201 W. Sixth St.
 Several sites on which to construct the new library were considered by the Library Board, one of which was the lot on the northwest corner of East Fifth and Summer Streets. A priority was to have it downtown near the business center, in walking distance for the greatest number of people. In retrospect, it seems unbelievable today that there was major objection to the final choice, “so far from downtown,” on the corner of Sixth and Winter Streets.
As with many towns, the trend came to Russellville for businesses to move away from downtown and more and more residents were living in subdivisions, making it necessary to drive to the library. Parking soon became a problem. There were not enough spaces in the parking lot to accommodate the growing number of library users, especially during times of programming and special events. Attempts to create additional parking space have been on the Board’s agenda in recurring regularity from the early 1970s, all without resolution. By 1975, the parking problem had become serious. The possibility of creating angled parking on the front lawn was considered in early 1995 and again in 1996. Parking off Winter Street was objected to in 1996. Various plans for the area behind the library and on the east side have been designed. An extensive file of undeveloped plans and factors surrounding this issue is in the library’s records. As the Board began to plan for new facilities in 2008, adequate parking space was of the utmost priority.
The home of Miss Fannie Morton Bryan, longtime teacher in the Russellville school system, was on the site of the present library. After her death in June 1965, this property was purchased by the City of Russellville, the governing body believing it to be a suitable site.
In order to clarify legalities related to the deGraffenried legacy and requirements of the Kentucky Department of Libraries, the City of Russellville would own the Thomas P. deGraffenried Memorial Library building which would house the Logan County Public Library and its services.
 
Charlie Vick was contracted in June 1966 to remove the residence of Miss Bryan for a sum of $300. The City Council agreed to pay half the cost of demolishing, the library board to pay the other half. He was to leave the concrete steps on Winter Street as an historical feature. The basement would be filled in by the building contractor.
Staff and Board members visited libraries in Kentucky and Tennessee to get ideas to incorporate into the plans for the building. Ohio County had recently opened a new library and its staff was quite helpful throughout the entire planning process.
On Jan. 27, 1966, the Board voted to contract with Riley, Howard, Lyne, and Batey, engineers and architects of Nashville, to design the building.
Bids were opened on June 21, 1966, at the courthouse. Waters Construction Company of Russellville was awarded the contract for the 6,718-square-foot building. Grand Opening took place on Sunday, Aug. 6, 1967, a little more than one year later. The guest book that was signed that day has been kept and is the library’s files. Jim and Charlie Ray, grandsons of “Chick” Ray, the first Board president, checked out the first books from the new library.
A number of invitations were sent out for the library’s Grand Opening by both the Board of Trustees and the Kentucky Department of Libraries. State Library personnel came from Frankfort, and staff persons and board members from surrounding counties attended the dedication and open house. Several letters of congratulations were received from government officials and other interested individuals. Among them was a letter from Kentucky author Jesse Stuart—a full page, written in longhand, praising the value of libraries and wishing that he could have been with us.
The front entrance foyer featured hand-painted murals—a map of Logan County with geographical features and points of historical interest on the left wall and a corresponding map of Russellville on the right. Jim Harrier, artist and mapmaker from Fort Campbell, was hired at $5.00 per hour, at a total cost of $500, to create the murals. Unfortunately, the material on which the painting was done did not hold up. Repairs were needed as early as 1969. It wrinkled and faded and before long was removed and replaced with a commercial wall covering like that throughout the library.
Another “innovative” building feature that didn’t work so well was the incorporating of oil in the cement mixture for the west entry porch. The color and texture were nice. However, when the finished concrete surface was wet, it became very slick, and by Dec. 1, 1969, two people had slipped and fallen. Weather-resistant carpet was glued down on the concrete to eliminate the problem.
Roof leaks have been a recurring problem, beginning soon after opening. The contractor blamed the roof design; the architect blamed the roofing installation. In early 1971, Board minutes noted that the Board was to confer with the architect and the contractor. Extensive repairs were made prior to May “at no expense.” Another leak developed before June. Leaks continued in old places and in the new 1974 addition. Every repair turned out to be only temporarily effective for decades to come.
In the original plans for the library, an offset on the east side was designed to accommodate an old piano owned by the deGraffenried family. Thinking that a library should not be a museum, the Board decided not to accept this gift and purchased a new organ with deGraffenried funds that was placed in the meeting room where programs were held. The organ was used on several occasions and music teachers were encouraged to make use of it. However, it took up much needed space and various repairs were necessary over the years. Bids were opened May 12, 1989, and the organ was sold to the Trinity Episcopal Church for $1,250.
An innovative feature of the library facility was a heated front sidewalk. It sloped toward the street, and the Board conceived the idea of automatic heating to melt ice that might be a hazard to patrons. It worked well for a number of years but was not repaired when it quit operating.
Interior painting was done in 2002, the first time since opening in 1967—a testimony to the good quality of this initial interior work, as well as lack of money to get it done earlier. The 15-year-old carpet was also replaced in 2002.
Oscar McCutchen, owner of McCutchen’s Flowers & Garden Center, was hired to landscape the building in September 1967. The Logan County Garden Club chose to further beautify the grounds as its main project for the year 1968.
Recognizing the importance of the new library, Rockwell awarded its annual Community Service Award to the Library Board in 1967.
Funds for construction, furnishings, and equipment came from three sources. At that time, money was available from the Federal government under the Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA) to help build libraries, and a grant of $100,000 was awarded to Logan County. The State of Kentucky contributed $18,620, and $75,000 from the deGraffenried bequest supplied the required local match. Total cost was $193,620.
Use of the library increased rapidly and the need for expanded facilities was soon evident. In 1974, a 4,820-square-foot addition brought the total square footage to 11,538. Cost of the addition was $167,826, with all funds coming from a loan from the deGraffenried legacy, paid back with amortization grants of $10,000 a year from the State for a period of 20 years. Open house for the addition was held Sept. 28, 1975.
The original building itself and the 1974 addition were constructed at no cost to the local taxpayers. The special taxing district’s income from the property tax that was levied upon creation of the District has gone for operational costs and upkeep of the building, since its completion.

 




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