Monday, March 29, 1999

Libraries celebrate past, look to future

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As two Northern Kentucky library systems prepare to celebrate anniversaries during National Library Week, both are considering new buildings to meet future needs.

        During the week of April 11-17, the Campbell County Public Library System will mark 100 years of public li brary service in Newport with an open house, historical displays at two branches and a systemwide art contest for children.

        In neighboring Kenton County, the public library system that got its start in rented quarters above a fish market will observe the 25th anniversary of its main library in Covington with a week of activities at all three branches. Events range from a reception April 11 at the main library to book signings by award-winning children's illustrator Will Hillenbrand.

        While much of the focus will be on past accomplishments, officials in both systems will be looking to the future.

        The Newport library, which can trace its beginnings to a bank basement at Fourth and Monmouth streets before moving across the street to the present building funded by the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, is rapidly running out of

        room, said branch manager Nancy Herfel.

        “(In the eight years) I've been here, we've increased our collection of books and other materials significantly,” Ms. Herfel said. “We're simply running out of shelf space.”

        The Newport library also lacks wall space for computers, is not designed to meet disabled users' needs and its three levels require more staffing than a one-story building would, said Phil Carrico, director of the Campbell County Public Library System.

        He added he hopes to replace the Newport library with a new one-story building in two to four years.

        “We know we're going to have to leave that area sooner or later because of the influx of tourists and all the people that are going to be coming down there,” Mr. Carrico said of the Newport site. “We'd like to stay in Newport, but possibly locate closer to the Dayton/Bellevue line.”

        When the Newport library was built in 1902, children and adults shared the first floor, until a basement renovation in 1937 created a children's room and a reference room.

        With the addition of branches in Cold Spring and Fort Thomas, the Campbell County Public Library System has come a long way from the days when its collection ranked last among county libraries in Kentucky, with the lowest number of books per resident, Mr. Carrico said.

        While the Covington library, which underwent a $500,000 renovation last summer, also has coped with growing pains, that system sees its expansion occurring in Erlanger.

        The Kenton County Public Library System is currently looking for a site in or near Erlanger, so that it can replace the crowded branch on Dixie Highway, which circulated more than 500,000 items in fiscal year 1996-97.

        Library officials also are considering possible expansion of the Independence branch, as well as possibly building a fourth library, said director Mary Ann Mongan.

        While the 52,900-square-foot Covington library is not facing immediate expansion, it too, has grown. When it opened in February 1974, it had 90,000 volumes and employed 30. Today, the library's collection includes more than 200,000 items, which are maintained by a staff of 61.

        Nearly a century after opening with 2,202 volumes, the Campbell County system — which now positions itself as a popular materials library — has more than 125,000 books, 250 magazine subscrip tions, 7,000 videos, 4,000 audio books and 2,000 music compact discs, library officials said. The library also is Internet accessible, with 27 workstations available to the public.

        The Kenton County Public Library System also has computerized its holdings, and has provided Internet access to the staff and public in recent years.

        “Technology certainly has been a focus for us up until this point,” Miss Mongan said. In upcoming weeks, she said a consultant will meet with library staff to offer advice on the system's telecommunications needs.

        The Campbell County system also hopes to continue its emphasis on technology, through increased Internet usage and circulation of materials such as videos, audio cassettes and compact discs, Mr. Carrico said.

        “Technology will continue to be a big issue in the future,” he said.


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