The First Library in Jenkins

The women in Jenkins, Kentucky rolled up their sleeves and formed the Women's Civic Club in 1936. In 1937, the Women's Club federated into the National Organization.

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The Club’s Purpose

The goal was to keep Jenkins a model community. And to help the educational and cultural development of the town. The club also held drives fundraising for the community’s welfare.

Members of this organization held fundraisers. This helped with unique needs in the community. The Club donated $500 one year to the Sharon Heights Hospital.

Donations also included the Jenkins Band Boosters Club at the Jenkins High School. And other needed equipment for the school. An annual scholarship to one outstanding student from Jenkins High School. This was also a part of their community work. The Women’s Civic Club gave a cup trophy to the most courteous driver of their class. This was to help the Driver’s Education Department.

One year the club also adopted twenty children. They were at the Old Baptist Orphanage located near Jenkins. Two of the members volunteered to be foster mothers to one child. Adopted children received clothing and other gifts.

Members of the club also decorated the town’s Christmas tree on Main Street. They delivered food baskets to the needy of the area. They also sent cigarettes to the Veterans Hospital. The Women’s Club also staged an annual holiday home decoration contest.

Jenkins Methodist Church. The Women’s Civic Club met in the basement. Picture in the public domain and can be found in the Smithsonian Collection

The First Attempts For a Library

In August of every year, the Women’s Club would have an all-day street carnival. With the purpose to raise money to build and maintain the library and to fund other Club activities. In keeping with a circus theme, members would don baggy pants, grease face paint, and dress as clowns. As part of the theme, there were booths, a variety show, clowns, games, and a country store.

The Women’s Civic Club and the local Girl Scouts went door-to-door. Their purpose was to ask for used books. They bought new books from the projects that the Club had sponsored. The library was open one night a week. Fifty books became loaned out to members of the community on the first night.

Meetings which at the time were in the basement of the Methodist Church. The meetings then moved to the town’s Boy Scout Cottage. The reason given was that the owners of the building did not want it used as a library.

Jenkins District Headquarters Boy Scouts of America where the Women’s Civic Club moved their meetings and books. The picture was found in the Smithsonian Collection

The books were then placed in storage in various places because there was no heat in the Boy Scout Cottage. Consolidation Coal Company decided to move its offices to a new building. The Coal Company granted for the club to hold their meetings in one of the older office buildings. A kitchen and a lodge served as the Club House for the ladies and the library now had three large rooms.

Failure is Not an Option

In 1951, renovations began for the usage as a library and clubhouse for the ladies. The books moved into their new space. Upon moving the books, a tragedy happened. Many of the books had become wet and damaged. Four hundred books were unusable.

The Women’s Civic Club members rallied with more book drives. The Club held Bake-sales, tag days, style shows, bridge parties, and carnivals. The money from the fundraising went to buy back books to replace those that were unusable.

None of the women in the Club had training in a library. So two librarians one from Jenkins High School and the other from Pikeville helped. The librarians helped the women choose which books to order. They also taught them how to catalog books. Also to repair books when needed, and process them for circulation.

The First Public Library

April 1, 1951, The Jenkins Public Library opened its doors with eight hundred books on the shelves. The first book checked out of the library that day was “Trail of the Lonesome Pine” by John Fox, Jr.

By the end of 1951, the Women’s Club established a permanent free public library. The club pays the librarian’s salary of one dollar a day. There are 4,000 books on the shelves

For the next three years, the Jenkins Library was the only Library in Letcher County. The Library ran on a volunteer basis except for a librarian who was on shift two hours a day and paid one dollar each day. The volunteers did janitorial work as well as repaired books to keep them in circulation.

During this time the Kentucky General Assembly began holding discussions. These discussions on giving much-needed aid to libraries. These were libraries that ran in rural areas of the state. The Jenkins Women’s Civic Club went to work. They sent out letters, made telephone calls. They sent delegates to Frankfort to sway the Assembly which did happen.

Regional Public Library System

The Kentucky Library Extension Division in 1961 sent fifty new books. Along with sending a large picture to the Jenkins Library. The Governor’s office recognized Jenkins Library for its efforts. They were one of ten libraries recognized that year for National Library Week.

In 1961, the Kentucky Library Extension Division sent a message. They advised the Jenkins Library to become part of the Letcher County Library system. In doing so, it would be eligible to take part in the latest programs for that part of the state. A new head office was going to Pikeville, Kentucky for that area. The Jenkins Library board voted to become part of the Letcher County Library System.

The head office in Pikeville, Kentucky did not happen at that time. Pikeville refused to join the Public Library system at that time. Jenkins was then offered to be the regional library. Yet, the Fiscal Court would appropriate eight hundred dollars for the project. The Fiscal Court agreed with a unanimous vote. But, there was a delay in the state funds. The state library then gave Jenkins several hundred books.

The Contest That Helped a Library

In October of 1961, Jenkins entered the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Library Contest. This contest belonged to the state Book-of-the‑Month Club. The Library and won the first prize of five thousand dollars. This would go to buy new books. They won for being the best. Along with one of the smallest and hardest-working libraries in the United States

Consolidation Coal Mines had sold to Bethlehem Mines Corporation. The name changed to Beth-Elkhorn Corporation. Beth-Elkhorn had agreed to furnish the library with a space in their new building. This new space was three times larger than the space that the library occupied.

New book covers went on books. The school children helped move the library to the new building. Re-decorations for the room started for the opening. The Library Extension Division even bought needed new books. With the understanding that the prize money would go to them to pay for the buying of the books.

Presentation Day

April 8, 1962, was the presentation day. The presentation of the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Library Contest prize to the library. The Book-of-the‑Month Club sent Chairman Harry Scherman. Six other members along with Scherman were guests to a luncheon on the day.

There were 150 library friends in attendance. The Master of Ceremonies was Mr. Archie Craft. The principal speaker was John Mason Brown who was a noted Kentucky author of that time. Among the noted and distinguished guests was Senator Thurston. B. Morton, Mr. and Ms. Samuel Cassidy, Janice Holt Giles, and Chloe Gifford were also there.

Regional Library Headquarters and Growth

Jenkins Public Library as it stands today. The date on the picture is incorrect. The photograph was taken by Joanna Adams Sergent in the summer of 2010.

Jenkins became the headquarters for the Pine Mountain Regional Library in Kentucky. The Regional Librarian was Mr. Don Amburgey. His office would be later moved to Whitesburg.

A bookmobile was a welcome addition to provide library service to those living out in the county. This reached areas where travel was difficult and to many shut-ins and elderly people.

The Letcher County Fiscal Court passed a .05% county library tax. This tax helped the regional library to continue to receive state aid. This money helps to fund new books and keep the bookmobile on the road.

Over the years, additions such as new electronic equipment and shelving. A new building with Computers and modern furniture. Over 28,000 books with other additions to the library. The location of the new building is next to the Jenkins Depot.

We thank you for continuing to support Kentucky Tennessee Living. As we bring to you the history of the Appalachian Mountains.

Thank you for your interest in The Women’s Civic Club and The First Library in Letcher County, Kentucky, and their struggle to build the Jenkins Library.

For More Information on the Women’s Civic Club or Library of Jenkins

The Women’s Civic Club
History of Jenkins, Kentucky
Compiled In Honor Of The Sixtieth Anniversary Homecoming Celebration
Sponsored By The Jenkins Area Jaycees

History of the Jenkins Public Library
By Mary Jo Wolfe
History of Jenkins, Kentucky
Compiled In Honor Of The Sixtieth Anniversary Homecoming Celebration
Sponsored By The Jenkins Area Jaycees

Louisville Sunday Courier-Journal, December 4, 1955

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When we forget our past and who we are as a people, then we become who “they” say we are. ~~ David Sergent

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