The library building in downtown Paris is an original Carnegie Library that opened in November 1904; it has welcomed patrons almost continuously since that time. Although some renovations have been made along the way, the classical proportions and features of the original building are still very much in evidence. This free public library continues to make a profound cultural impact on an immeasurable number of children and adults throughout the community.
At the turn of the 19th century, several local clubs with a strong literary and self-education focus found their personal libraries inadequate for the studies they undertook, and so the dream of a public library was born.
All these clubs, with the common interest of a public library, formed a city federation for the purpose of raising funds to establish a library. Through fund-raising events and individual gifts, members raised around $10,000 — a considerable sum for that time.
Fortunately, at this time Mr. Andrew Carnegie was assisting cities in building public libraries. Several persons wrote to him; at the time he was living in Scotland at Skibo Castle. Mr. Carnegie’s secretary replied that it was customary for the Mayor of the town to take the initiative in these matters. Paris Mayor Benjamin Perry immediately wrote a personal request, and Mr. Carnegie agreed to give Paris $12,000 for a library, provided the city would maintain the library at a cost of not less than $1,200 per year.
Early in 1903, the present site on the corner of Seventh and High Streets was purchased from the Misses Annie and Ellen Kelly, “noted tailoresses of the day.” The original building was erected at a cost of $23,000, including furnishings. Opened in November of 1904, a contemporary account describes it as a structure of “handsome French flat pressed brick with trimmings of carved Bedford stone. The interior has hardwood floors, solid oak woodwork, and paneling. The reading rooms, being corner rooms, permit the best light effect.” The architect for the building was Raymond Stamler. Miss Celeste Lucas was the first librarian, replaced a few years later by Miss Imogen Redmon.
On May 4, 1967, the library became a tax-supported institution, freely available to all residents of Paris and Bourbon County. Soon after, a renovation project was begun and the former basement was enlarged to become the first floor of the building. During this period, the original library reading room was used for library programs, civic meetings, and storage.
Another construction and renovation project was begun in 1988, adding a two-story addition and remodeling the entire facility. Also at this time, adjoining property was purchased to allow for future expansion. The library’s original collection of 5,484 books now numbers over 48,000 items. Additionally, the library provides over 3,400 DVDs, 1,500 audiobooks on CD, 90 print magazine and newspaper subscriptions, access to over 46,000 ebooks, access to over 12,000 eaudiobooks, hundreds of thousands of downloadable mp3 tracks, wireless Internet and printing, and 22 public Internet stations, not to mention all the databases, programs, and other activities! All these services would surely astound and please Andrew Carnegie.
As in the mid-1980s, the Library is in dire need of additional space; the library board, Director, and staff are actively planning for construction which will result in the expansion of the Library’s facilities to accommodate increased demand for items in all formats, provide easier patron access, increase efficiency and effectiveness of employees, and create intentional public meeting space.
PARIS-BOURBON COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY
701 High Street
Paris, Kentucky 40361