George Coon Public Library has been a well-known Caldwell County pillar for nearly 90 years. But its first incarnation -- the first floor above a hardware store -- was much less humble.
When Princeton Collegiate Institute closed in 1913, the collection of books was moved above Eldred Hardware Store, Library Director Nichelle Faughn said.
"Ladies in Princeton saw the need of the community to take the books that were there and house them above what is now Joiner Hardware Store," Faughn said. "After that, George Coon allowed them to use his childhood home to house the books."
When the library needed more space, Coon, who became the library's namesake, donated money to build the oldest part of the current library. At 6 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium, library and community officials will recognize and celebrate the 90th anniversary of the library's oldest section.
The event is open to the public.
"It's a night honoring the legacy of the library and the legacy of the previous librarians or library directors," Faughn said of next week's event.
Faughn, who has been the library's director for three years, discussed the library's transformation over the years. What began as an important community resource for books has expanded its collection and operation into the digital age.
"As the years have gone by, the library has also diversified and progressed," Faughn said. "Once the internet and computers came around, the library adapted so that the community had those capabilities and that access."
"It's definitely a place that people can come, not only to read but also to utilize those resources. We've also developed many activities that have progressed over the years."
The library offers programs for children, teens and adults.
"I've always had summer readings to keep the little ones interested, but we wanted to try to focus more on getting teens and adults that love to read to come to the library," Faughn said.
She said the programs have helped bring in new patrons.
"We just had trivia night and it seems to have become quite popular," Faughn said. "We try to have Chautauqua speakers come from the Kentucky Humanities Council."
The library currently has 5,356 registered users, and a collection of 30,864 books and roughly 1,000 DVDs and audiobooks. Additionally, patrons can access digital and audio books and movies through Kentucky Libraries Unbound.
In the 2018-19 fiscal year, the library circulated 49,346 items, which includes books, audio books and DVDs. That's an increase from 41,480 items the previous fiscal year. Library officials said they regularly monitor best seller lists and accept patron requests so they can keep up with popular material.
The Friends of the Library, a community group formed 25 years ago, has been instrumental in helping George Coon move forward by assisting library staffers and helping raise money. The director appreciates the contributions.
"There are a lot of things that we do that we would not be able to without the Friends of the Library," Faughn said. "They have helped us raise funds to buy extra things we might like to have or extra things we need."
"They also volunteer for events that we have, such as Trick-or-Treating coming up downtown. They will be helping us hand out candy out front."
During Thursday's celebration, genealogist Linda Ward will give a brief history of the library's beginning. Past librarians will be portrayed in historical reenactments; Miss Pearl Hawthorne will be played by Serita Holt and Mrs. Grace Pettit will be played by Bebby Lewis.
Judy Boaz and Faughn will speak about their tenures as library directors.
Anyone who has library memorabilia such as old newspaper clippings, bookmarks or library cards, is encouraged to bring them to be displayed.
Faughn said she appreciates the significance of Thursday's event, and the milestone it represents.
"I'm honored that I'm here and that I'm following in the footsteps of these women," she said.
If you go …
What: George Coon Public Library 90th anniversary celebration
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: Library auditorium, 114 S. Harrison St.
-- The event is free and open to the public. Anyone who has library memorabilia such as old newspaper clippings, bookmarks or library cards, is encouraged to bring them to be displayed.