The Library began the decade of the 1940’s with a growing number of patrons and a monthly book circulation averaging of 10,000 per month. The Library began the very first week of the new decade by swearing in two new Board members. One of those board members, Rebecca Cox, would later become a much larger part of the organization.
During 1940, 200 new books were added to the Library’s shelves each month. Between 300 and 400 new card holders were added each month as well. The Library’s typists created, on average, 800 new catalog cards each month. The Library’s total book budget was $2,000 per year and the librarian’s salary was $135 per month. The Covington location of the Library was open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The Library was closed on Sundays. In most cases, two staff people were on duty in the main reading room and one person was on duty in the Children’s Room. The Children’s Room was not open the same hours as the rest of the Library. Instead, its hours varied, changing to late afternoons and evenings during the school year and to late mornings and early afternoons during the summer.
Although most Library users resided in Covington, the Library offered services for the entire county. For residents living outside of Covington, the Library provided special services to the children attending schools in the county. The use of sub-stations, keeping small collections of the Library’s books in another building, grew quite steadily in the 1940’s. Most of these sub-stations were kept in schools for the students to enjoy the Library’s books when travel to the Library was impossible. The expansion of the sub-station program also helped the Library alleviate its space problem. Already in 1940, the Covington Library was outgrowing its space in the Carnegie Building.
In addition to sub-stations, the Library still supported the Erlanger-Elsmere Library. Having outgrown the space in the Citizen’s Bank on Dixie Highway, the Erlanger-Elsmere Library soon moved to a room in a house on Garvey Avenue. The Covington Library had funds for one employee in Erlanger with the remainder of staff being volunteers. The number of checkouts at the Erlanger-Elsmere location numbered about 1,000 per month. The collection of the library was around 3,500 items. During the early 1940’s the hours of the Erlanger Library were from 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. There was also a short-lived experiment leaving the library open from 3:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m. on Wednesdays to attract more users.
As 1942 began, the Library re-examined its budget and discovered the $25 monthly contributions from the cities of Erlanger and Elsmere were not sufficient to run the Branch location. Each year, the Library was spending $800 of its own funds to keep the Branch open, an amount that made it impossible to purchase any new books. In March 1942, a meeting was scheduled among the Library Board and the Erlanger and Elsmere Councils to discuss an increase in their contribution. No amount was decided on at that meeting, and as months passed, the Library Board became restless.
On June 5, 1942, the decision was made to close the location if no new funding was promised. None came. The Erlanger Woman’s Club agreed to take over full possession and full responsibility of the Erlanger-Elsmere Library. The Library turned all responsibility to the Club, and the cities of Erlanger and Elsmere continued their $25 a month contribution to the Erlanger-Elsmere Library, thus temporarily ending the 14-year-old cooperation between the two libraries.
Children’s Services continued to be a large part of the Library’s mission during the 1940’s. The Children’s Librarian, Eleanor McKenna, continued to increase programming for children and also continued to visit the large numbers of students in each school throughout the county. Miss McKenna also started the program allowing teachers to have a library card that was independent of their own personal card. With this Teacher’s Card, teachers could have a small collection of books on any topic in their classroom. The Summer Reading Club continued each July and August and was especially popular in 1942 when the club was called the Aviation Reading Club. Ninety-six children participated in the program with an obvious wartime theme. Upon reading 5 books, each child received a pair of wings and his/her name was displayed on an airplane cutout on the walls of the children’s room.
The Library had wartime affiliations during World War II. In addition to losing a valued employee, Duncan Hazelwood to the Signal Corps, the Library hosted many meetings of the Civil Defense Group. Covington’s Library also served as a clearinghouse for the collection of books called the Victory Book Campaign. Kentucky’s goal for that campaign was to collect over 250,000 used books for distribution. The Library was also one of 200 locations chosen in the United States to distribute defense materials. It is not indicated in the records what these materials were. The Library often waived its auditorium rental fee for organizations like the Red Cross that raised money for the war effort. This included a Red Cross fundraiser in 1940 for a program entitled “Bundles for Britain.” Also, in December 1942, the Head Librarian’s monthly report mentions the difficulty in finding able men to employ in several jobs in the Library due to their service overseas.
The staff of the Covington Library changed dramatically during the 1940’s. The three top positions in the Library were vacated during the decade. In addition to many shelving positions and the Works Progress Administration employees, many key figures left. Only one was a direct result of the war.
In September 1940, head librarian, Catherine Lyon Towers left her position to become the Assistant Librarian in Providence, Rhode Island. Her replacement, as acting librarian, was Board member Rebecca Cox. Miss Cox was to remain acting librarian through the rest of the decade.
The longtime assistant librarian, Lucy Blackburn, remained an employee through the early years of the 1940’s. She was, however, often ill and had to take many extended leaves to regain her health. She died after several lengthy illnesses and the Library closed on the day of her funeral in honor of her service to the Library and to allow the staff to attend her funeral.
The librarian that helped define children’s services in Kenton County, Eleanor McKenna, resigned her position in November 1943. She left to take a position as a Children’s Librarian at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Her replacement was Jane Edward.
The age of the Carnegie Library began to show during the 1940’s. Much expenditure was requested for repairs and refurbishment of the building. Longtime custodian, Joseph Voller, was responsible for the task of painting, varnishing and sprucing up the building and its grounds. More extensive work was done inside and outside the building. A company was contracted to completely clean the walls, the shelves, the dome and all the books in the building. A lighting company was employed to replace the building’s chandeliers with brighter lighting and to install the older chandeliers in locations of the building such as the auditorium. New floor runners were placed in each doorway. During July 1941, in response to the refurbishment, the Library held a celebration to show off the renovations. Members of the Board greeted visitors. Local florists donated floral displays and there was extensive news coverage of the event. In addition, the Library hired a professional photographer to preserve the new look on film.
During the rest of the decade, many repairs were necessary in the building—especially broken windows. Many other upgrades in the later part of the 1940’s included a new furnace, new caulking around windows and the removal and replacement of many trees around the building. The roof was replaced in late 1949 and into 1950. Several pieces of furniture were donated to the Library during this time as well.
The Library experienced some crimes during the decade. Two months in a row, the fine money was taken by vandals. On another occasion, two typewriters were stolen. Another burglary resulted in the loss of $2, 84 3-cent stamps and two knives. In all cases, the police never caught the thieves, but the police agreed to patrol the Library at closing to assure the building’s safety.
The Covington Library finished the 1940’s by checking out fewer items per month than when the decade began. Despite this, the Library had expanded its services. Children’s programs, community visits, marketing of Library collections and responding to the public’s desire for new information were evident during the entire decade. The citizens of Kenton County were very supportive of their Library during the 1940’s, but the need for expanded services throughout the county was voiced as early as 1941. The need and desire to serve the citizens in the more rural sections of Kenton County will become a stronger theme of the Library in the 1950’s. The need for a unified county system had started to become evident. It will, however, be almost 20 years before that dream becomes a reality.