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History of the Mount Sterling Library

Compiled 2003, M. Smathers-Barnes

In spring of 1871 or 1872 Judge D.B. Garrison was visiting relatives in Louisville when he passed a small book store with a sign that said, “Circulating Library of Popular Books nearly 1000 Volumes for $100.00 cash.” He made the good faith deposit for the books, knowing that a library would be useful in Mt. Sterling, and that the remaining funds needed would be easily gathered back at Mt. Sterling. Garrison asked local lawyers, and “other liberal people” and found little trouble raising the $100 plus packing and shipping.1

Judge R. Apperson, Jr, was in ownership of the Masonic Temple at the time, as a result of non-payment by owners. He had endorsed the note for the original debt of erecting the building and took ownership at public auction to protect his personal interests. Garrison, already acting as agent of Apperson in relation to the Masonic Temple, asked permission to use an empty room for the newly developing library. Since the space was frequently unoccupied by renters, Apperson was glad to provide the room rent free. Tables and shelves were donated by local lumber mills. Additional books, mostly of a governmental nature, were donated by Judge Apperson, Col. Thomas Tuner, Capt. A.S. Terry, and Judge Belwood Peters, as well as other unnamed donors.

Matt Tyler and D.B. Garrison, sharing responsibilities of a law firm together, took turns maintaining afternoon library hours each day. Finally, Miss Oldham (later Mrs. Harisford) volunteered to maintain the reading room daily. Mrs. Virginia Hanson was the first to receive a meager salary for librarian services.

The library was incorporated in 1878, and managed by a board of trustees appointed by the City Council, which allotted quarterly income. As part of a trend across the state, in 1906, the City Council turned the library over to the Woman’s Club, which set up a Library Board consisting of Woman’s Club members. The Woman’s Club then pledged support to raise money for library expenses. By that time, the library was housed in two rooms above City Hall, where it remained until 1963.2 According to some accounts, the city renovated the “city jail and jailer’s residence in 1930, and the library moved to that location for an undetermined amount of time. However, the Mt. Sterling Library had returned to the location over city hall by 1963.3&4

Mrs. James Kennedy joined the Woman’s Club in 1898, and was named to the City Library Board in 1906. Upon her death, she bequeathed her home on West High Street to the Mt. Sterling Library Association, under the conditions that it would be converted into a library and to remain as the library for at least 10 years.2

In 1981 a public library district was formed according to regulations set forth in the Kentucky Revised Statutes. Becoming a separate taxing district placed the library officially in the hands of the county’s citizens, directed by a Library Board of citizens, appointed by the County Judge Executive and approved by the state department for libraries and archives. In 1983, with a matching grant from the state library, construction began on a new library. The Mt. Sterling – Montgomery County Library moved to the previous location, accessible from both Main and Locust Streets, in July 1984. The building was officially dedicated on September 30, 1984.5

The Camargo Branch Library was established in 2008 as a result of continued public request for more access to the Southern side of Montgomery County. After several rounds of public survey and input, the Library Board began in 2006 to research feasibility and available locations for a library branch. In early 2008, the Montgomery County Library Board and the City of Camargo entered an agreement to utilize space a recently vacated room in Camargo City Hall. For over ten years, the library and city hall have worked collaboratively to provide valuable local access to books, library informational materials, computers, and programs for all ages.

As the community grew and space needs increased, the library board began to look at expansion options in the early part of the new century. Multiple options and feasibility studies were considered over a ten year period to develop a financially feasible project with sufficient ability to support current and future needs. After a lengthy acquisition period, negotiations for the former Mary Chiles Hospital property were finalized as an effort to utilize the abandoned property to establish a new library community space near the heart of town. Ground breaking for the current Mt. Sterling Library building began in November 2015 with the building completed and open to the public in September 2017. The newer facilities offer more collaborative and quiet study space, meeting rooms, designated adult and children’s spaces, plus outdoor seating and program areas, along with a public playground provided by the Medical Association of the former Mary Chiles Hospital and green space managed collaboratively by the Montgomery County Public Library and Montgomery County Parks and Recreation. The current main library facilities are an excellent example of the public benefit of local business and organizations working together to accomplish a goal for the entire community.

The front entrance of the current Montgomery County Library continues to display the 1931 plaque dedicated to the original 1878 City Library incorporators: Lewis Apperson, H.W. Bain, H.R. French, D.B. Garrison, James H. Hazelrigg, John Maupin, E.B. Richardson, W.T. Tibbs, and A.B. White.6 The dedication plaque for the completion of the 1984 Library building, as well as a plaque for the dedicated board members that worked hard to help make the current facilities a reality.

Bibliographical Information

  1. Garrison, D.B. “Handwritten Letter, to Miss Eliza Harris, Mt. Sterling, KY”. {written from}Tacoma, Washington:
    March 28, 1930.
  2. Hubbard, Gladys. Chairman, Montgomery County Kentucky Bicentennial Commission. Montgomery County Kentucky
    Bicentennial: 1774-1874. (Mt. Sterling, KY: 1974).
  3. “The Mt. Sterling Library/ Does It Provide Adequate Service?” Mt. Sterling Advocate [Mt. Sterling, KY]
    Thursday, August 11, 1976.
  4. “From Small Beginnings, A Library Was Founded” Mt. Sterling Advocate Library Section [Mt. Sterling, KY]
    Thursday, September 27, 1984.
  5. “History of Library in Brief”. Mt. Sterling Advocate Library Section [Mt. Sterling, KY] Thursday, September 27, 1984.
  6. Bronze Dedication Plaque. Mt. Sterling – Montgomery County Library, Main Street Entrance. Mt. Sterling, KY.

Additional Information

Boyd, Carl B Jr. and Hazel Mason Boyd. A History of Mt. Sterling Kentucky: 1792-1918. (Mt. Sterling, KY: Carl B. Boyd Jr. 1984).