History of the Cynthiana-Harrison Public Library


Serving the Community since 1930

In April 1930, a meeting of citizens interested in a city library was held at the Cynthiana City Hall and resulted in a permanent organization know as the Cynthiana Library Association.

Through the foresight of W.W. VanDeren, city attorney, two rooms had been set aside in the new city building for the purpose of establishing a public library. Through various fundraisers, 1259 books were purchased, and volunteer workers were enlisted. The public library of Cynthiana was now a reality.

Two major changes occurred in the succeeding years: a permanent librarian, Mrs. William Lowe, was hired and the library received a bookmobile from the Kentucky Bookmobile Project. At this time, Mrs. C.E. Judy replaced Mrs. Lowe as overseer of both the library and bookmobile. In 1957, she relinquished her duties to Mrs. Prentice Burgan, Sr.

In 1959, a local resident, William Wohlwender, left the bulk of his estate to build a new public library building. On September 28, 1962, the grand opening was held in the new building on Church Street. At this time, a new board was elected, and the library staff was increased to two full-time employees. Library hours increased from 10 to 44 per week, and circulation jumped 629 percent.

By joining the Buffalo Trace Regional Library System in 1962, the library received added benefits of a large bookmobile, more books and state aid, and the services of trained personnel and staff. The amazing growth resulting from this brought it the 1964 Dorothy Canfield Fischer Award as one of the top ten small public libraries in the nation.

In 1966, the citizens of Harrison County petitioned the court to levy a two-cent library tax to support the demand for library services, forming a library district. This money and continued state support resulted in renovations in 1968 and 1975 and the acquisition of a new bookmobile in 1977.

In 1979-1980, the merger of the Cynthiana Public Library Board and that of the Harrison County District into one led to renewed enthusiasm and an all out search for property to expand the library. Property for this purpose was purchased at 104 North Main Street during the tenure of Director Ruth Smith, who had succeeded Mrs. Prentice Burgan in January 1984.

In September 1987, Mary Margaret Lowe assumed the directorship and supervised the planning of the new library and the ground-breaking ceremonies which were held in May 1989. The building was completed and dedicated in July of 1990. Also, at this time, Mrs. Burgan was called out of retirement to assume the role of acting director. She remained in this position until October of 1991.

E. Susan Ellis became director in 1991 and stayed in that position until August of 2005. Marion Vest acted as interim director. The Board chose Pat Barnes as the new director in October of 2005.

Our collection has grown steadily from the 1,259 books to a collection of 51,268. Today, Internet access, online databases, DVDs, music CDs, computer software, etc. have changed the face of all libraries, even in Cynthiana, Kentucky.