As the use of computers became more common place in the business world in the 90's, the Library was a leader in providing computer services for the public. One of the largest projects undertaken by the staff would be to automate the Library's record keeping system along with access to its collection. All records of materials purchased, ordered, processed and shelved for patrons had to be converted into machine-readable format in order for the entire Library system to be "linked" by technology. This process was extremely tedious and time consuming. The Library was closed from August 6 through August 18, 1990 so items could be fitted with a barcode that the computer software could scan for record keeping.
In February 1990 the Erlanger Woman's Club proposed a gift of relandscaping the Erlanger Branch. The landscaping was donated in honor of the Club's 75th anniversary. The Erlanger Woman's Club had started the first public library in Erlanger in 1914, which eventually became the Erlanger Branch.
There was still much discussion about building a branch library in the southern part of Kenton County. One potential site on Mills Road in Independence was discussed, however the Board wanted a more visible site.
After reviewing copies of best selling books, several reporters from The Cincinnati Enquirer began donating the books to the Library. The Board was very appreciative of this gesture. Retail value of the books donated were estimated at $5,000 per month and resulted in great savings for the Library. If the Library already had several copies of the book it was donated to the Friends of the Kenton County Public Library to sell in their book sales.
Throughout the 1990's circulation at all locations continued to climb. In April of 1991, Covington adult items increased in circulation by 20 percent, children's materials increased by 44 percent in circulation and Erlanger's check outs increased 15 percent in adult items and 30 percent in children's materials. The Bookmobile also had a large increase of 68 percent. Reports showed that 83 percent of items at the Erlanger Branch had circulated to the public at least one time. This indicated a strong and popular collection that fit the needs of the community.
The Main Library was the focus of an upgrade in 1993 to comply with the American with Disabilities Act. Associate Director Mike Averdick spearheaded this project which included remodeling restrooms, creating ramps, and modifying furniture. A total of $103,000 would be spent on improvements in accordance with the Act. For going above and beyond the requirements to make the Library more accessible to those with disabilities, Mr. Averdick was presented with the A.D.A. Honor Roll award.
In the November 1992, the Board proceeded with the purchase of land on Taylor Mill Road for a southern branch library. The construction of this long awaited facility began in 1994.
The Library added several new items to its collection including compact discs, videos and CD-ROMs. The Library also established the first Internet connection for the Reference Department in 1994.
In February 1995, the Board and staff were busy preparing for the opening of the new Independence Branch. The Friends held an art and essay contest for school children and received more than 800 entries. Items to be put in the cornerstone were selected.
As excited as the community was about the new branch, there was also a bit of sadness. The bookmobile, which had served so many rural residents for many years, would discontinue service since the majority of popular stops were in the same service area as the new branch. However service to homebound patrons would continue.
As May approached, staff was hired to work at the Independence Branch. Anita Owens was selected as Branch Librarian.
The grand opening was scheduled for May 21, 1995. At the opening event, more than 600 residents came to celebrate the new library. State Librarian Jim Nelson, who spoke at the opening ceremony, remarked that he had never seen such an outpouring of community support at a library opening. Children's Librarian Cecilia Horn secured entertainment for the day, which included a mime, a clown, a person portraying Mother Goose and a tall-tale singer. Outside the Branch a large teepee was set up to promote the Summer Reading Club. The winners of the art and essay contest were also named. During the first full month of operation, the Independence Branch checked out more than 18,000 items.
In the mid-1990's, the Library Board of Trustees instituted the first long-range planning process for the Library. Directed by Board Vice-President Richard Gibeau, a planning committee appointed sub committees to study various aspects of the Library's program and services. The goal of the committees was to develop plans to "achieve a new level of excellence" in regards to Library service. Community members and Library representatives worked on a variety of issues and made their recommendations to the Board in 1997. An ambitious program of improvements was adopted by the Board and presented to the Library staff and the public.
A group of 27 artists lead by Northern Kentucky University professor Kevin Booher painted a mural entitled "Local Heroes" which depicts local community representatives that had made a difference in Northern Kentucky. In 1995 the mural was donated to the Kenton County Public Library. The 40' by 10' mural was too large to fit on any wall of the library, so it had to be separated into two parts and was hung on an overhanging wall at the entrance to the Kentucky section in the Main Library. The estimated value of the mural was $150,000.
In 1996, a parcel of property located on the southwest corner of the Main Library's property, which housed a Domino's pizza restaurant, was vacated. The Library Board purchased the property in order to provide more parking for the popular Covington library.
In April of 1997, Associate Director Mike Averdick retired. Mr. Averdick had been with the Library for 23 years and was responsible for the development of the Library's art and local history collection. Wayne Onkst, Head of Adult Services, was named as his successor. A few months after he retired, Mr. Averdick was awarded the Margaret Willis Outstanding Library Service Award by the Kentucky Library Association.
Throughout the decade the popularity of the Erlanger Branch continued to soar. The Long-Range Planning Committee reported that the Branch was unable to meet the needs of its users. Particular concerns included parking, an inadequate children's room and lack of shelf space for items. The Board initially looked into acquiring land adjacent to the building for expansion however the building was not constructed for expansion and additional land was not available. For the remainder of the decade Board members and the Library staff looked at more than 20 potential sites in the Erlanger area where a new branch library could be built. It would not be until the third month of the 21st century that land was purchased to build a new branch.
The Erlanger Branch was not the only library in need of improvements. During the summer of 1998, the Main Library underwent a major renovation project which not only included repainting every wall and recarpeting but also creating more office space for administrative staff. However the most dramatic change was in the Children's' Department. Then entire room was emptied of all contents and a temporary children's library was set up in the meeting room. For three months workers tore down walls, created new entryways, painted and installed new flooring. The Board hired local artist Charles Grund to paint one of the walls with a giant mural of a child-like scene from medieval England. The remainder of the room was painted as well and when completed the room represented an old castle with colorful walls and fun places for children to sit and read.
In 1998, the first comparison survey of libraries throughout the United States was conducted. The Hennen's American Public Library Rating (HAPLR) index was established to allow comparison of libraries serving similar population sizes based on annual report statistics. The rating index is similar to an ACT or SAT score, with a minimum score of 1 and a maximum score of 1,000. Scores were based on criteria for circulation figures, staffing, materials and reference service. The Kenton County Public Library received a rating of 685 and was listed in the top 20 percent of libraries serving a population of more than 100,000 residents. However in comparison to other Kentucky libraries rated in the same category, the Library rated number one. The following year, the Library again received the same honor and was also ranked the top library in the state.
In the summer of 1999, Library Director Mary Ann Mongan announced her retirement. Ms. Mongan had served the Library for more than 40 years, starting when the Covington Library was in the Carnegie building. Ms. Mongan was credited for her dedication to library service and for the growth and success of the Kenton County Public Library system. On the day she retired the staff, Board and Friends celebrated her tenure with the Library by creating scrapbooks, producing a video tour of the Library and showering her with gifts. She was also recognized by representatives from the State of Kentucky, Kenton County, the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives and the City of Covington, which presented her with a key to the city and proclaimed the day "Ms. Mongan Day." She also received a note of congratulations on her retirement from President Bill Clinton. Ms. Mongan was truly the backbone of the Library in second half of the 20th century. To show appreciation for her dedication to the residents of Kenton County and Library service, the Board renamed the Main Library the Mary Ann Mongan Library - Covington. Shortly after Ms. Mongan retired, Mr. Onkst was named as the new director.
Through the 1990's technology played a major part in the growth of services at the Library. The development of the Internet made information once only found in books available at the click of a mouse. Originally, only the Reference Department had access to the Internet. By the end of the decade, each library, Covington, Erlanger and Independence not only had computers for each staff member, but also made computers available to all patrons. With a grant from the Gates Foundation, the Library was awarded dozens of additional computers in 1998 outfitted with a variety of software from publishing programs to reference materials.
Technology would continue to shape the Library as it ventured into the 21st century. Video cassettes were joined on the shelves by DVDs. Although audio books were still popular, compact discs were rapidly making their way onto the shelves. And there was discussion in the media if electronic books read with hand held computers would make paper books obsolete. Whatever the future holds for the Kenton County Public Library District one thing is certain, the needs of the residents will always be a primary concern. Providing the programs and services to fit their educational and recreational needs will always be top priority.