Crittenden County Public Library History

Due to the tireless efforts of Mrs. Jessie Croft Ellis, the Crittenden County Library was established in 1952. It started with 500 volumes and now boasts over 20,000.

At the time of establishment, the state appropriated $2,900 for the organization of a library in Crittenden County, which was matched with approximately $300 by the Fiscal Court. Many plans were made, and with the members of the local Woman’s Club pushing hard for an early opening, the first Crittenden County Public Library opened on April 6, 1953. The 70th Anniversary was celebrated with an open house on April 13, 2023.

Mrs. Ellis, a native of Crittenden County, was a retired librarian from the University of Michigan, and the author of several books. She worked very hard to select and catalog books to be ready for the opening. The library was housed in a small office space on a first floor in the heart of downtown Marion where the old Chamber of Commerce office was once located. In less than a year it outgrew the space and it was necessary to find a new location.

In March 1954, the library, with approximately 1,000 volumes, moved to its new location on North Main Street (later where Johnson’s Furniture warehouse was located). It called on all its patrons and friends to come in and help build shelves and provide equipment for the larger building.  Various means were used to raise money for the library: bake sales, auctions, club donations, and appeals to the Fiscal Court.

In September 1954, the Fiscal Court voted to give additional support to the library. It soon became apparent that the library would need to have a definite means of support. It became necessary to have the matter placed on the ballot in the November 1959 general election. The county was thoroughly canvassed by library supporters and the result was 1,698 voters in favor of, and 956 voters against the establishment of a public library for Crittenden County, KY pursuant to Kentucky Statutes 173.310 and the succeeding sections. The County Judge appointed the first five-member Library Board and the matter was recorded in Order Book 21 in the County Clerk’s office. On November 27, 1959, the Crittenden County Fiscal Court began levying taxes for library funding.

In 1965, the library relocated again to the courthouse square. It had a large front window which made an attractive place for a book display. With limited funds, provided by the Court and City Council, the library was not able to purchase as many new books as was necessary to meet the demands of the students and patrons.

On May 23, 1966, the local Board entered into a Service Agreement with the Department of Libraries, Commonwealth of KY, and were assigned to the Pennyrile Region under the leadership of Miss Mary Wilson Eldred. New books began to appear on the shelves to take the place of old books. These attracted more people into the library.

Still, they had no way to reach the people out in the county except when they came into town to shop.

On September 10, 1966, the Department of Libraries sent a new Bookmobile. By the first of October, with the help of Mr. Roy Mayes, routes were planned out and the Bookmobile was ready to make its first run. The Board hired Mrs. Gustava McDonald to be the traveling librarian. Circulation increased due to bookmobile services.

Circulation in the library steadily increased, and the ever-increasing number of books made the shelves overly crowded with no space to put new shelves.

Construction of the present library facility, located on the corner of Carlisle and Court Streets, on the site of the old county jail, was begun in March 1975 as soon as the “new” jail was completed and the old one vacated. The building was finished in November, and the move from the rented building on Bellville was started. The new building opened to the public on February 1, 1976.

In 2006, the property of the aforementioned “new” jail was traded to the library in exchange for property owned behind the library on West Carlisle Street in order to make room for a new Detention Center. The Fiscal Court razed the former jail building and there is now room for expansion along Court Street to the west of the current Library Building.

Today, the library has over 20,000 volumes, 10 public-access computers, wireless Internet, Children’s programming, Bookmobile services, and a meeting room that serves the community. It offers books, eBooks, audiobooks, and movies as well as services such as photocopying, faxing and notary services.

First Library Board, appointed Sept. 1, 1959

Mrs. Daisy Franklin, Mrs. Regenia Postlethweight, Glenn Walker, Robert L. White, Bennett Gray Alvis

Directors of the Crittenden County Public Library:

Jessie Croft Ellis 1952-1962

Bette Taylor April-Oct., 1962

Margaret Rhem 1962-1979

Gayle Alvis 1979-1987

Janie Stovall 1988-1989

Sherry Tinsley 1989-1993

Janice Prichard 1993-2004

Regina Merrick 2004-2017

Brandie Ledford 2018-2023

Bookmobile Librarians:

Gustava McDonald, Carol Winn, Martha Epley, Nellie Kirk, Carolyn Paris, Beverly Hearell, Ann Stewart, Rose Kirk, Wendy Brown, Donette Perryman, Tabitha (Padgett) Tinsley, Nancy Brock, Susan Smith, Shawnee Pace

This historical account was compiled by Margaret Rhem. Updates were made by Regina Merrick in March 2014 and by Brandie Ledford in May of 2023.