Expanded Covington Library Opens With Celebration
Story & Photos by Pat LaFleur, RCN contributor
The expansion of the Kenton County Public Library and its role in the renaissance of Downtown Covington was celebrated with a grand opening on Saturday.
The six-year renovation project was highlughted by a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a full day of festivities.
Speakers included Executive Director Dave Schroeder, Jim Horner, president of the KCPL Board of Trustees, Covington Schools Superintendent Alvin Garrison, Mayor Sherry Carran, and Kenton County Commissioner Chris Knochelmann.
The day’s festivities also included a visit from the Cincinnati Zoo, guided tours of the library, genealogy workshops, a display of artwork by local children and teens, and a book character costume parade. Covington Latin and Holmes High School choirs provided music for the event, and Mary Ann Mongan, the branch’s namesake, was also recognized for her near half-century of service to the library.
The renovation project, which began with a feasibility study in 2007, marked the first comprehensive overhaul of the branch’s facilities in the building’s 37-year history, as well as the first project of its kind to reach completion while the library remained open and operational.
Aside from the cosmetic modernization of the building’s facade, the renovation added over 12,000 sq. ft. of floor space, more than doubled the size of the children’s and teen departments, expanded the local history and genealogy departments, increased the number of conference rooms, nearly doubled the number of computers, added outdoor terraces, and opened a drive-thru window, among other additions.
Funding for the $12.5 million renovation was provided through savings, bondings, and fundraising efforts that included sponsorships from Toyota, Bank of Kentucky, Republic Bank, and the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, along with nearly $50,000 donated by library patrons.
The Covington branch sees approximately 400,000 visitors each year. “We wanted community involvement from the beginning,” explained Julia Allegrini, the library's branch manger.
Along with fundraising efforts, the library engaged the community through public meetings and surveys to assess what facilities and services library patrons wanted to see added. The majority of requests involved an increase in computers, more book space, a drive-thru, more meeting rooms, and a bright and airy interior atmosphere.
Beyond the building’s physical facilities, Executive Director Dave Schroeder characterized the renovation as an effort to reposition the Covington library as a fundamental community resource, explaining that more and more people are using libraries for more than just finding books, but as community centers, as well. According to Schroeder, the branch saw a 16% increase in circulation this past September compared with last fall, and more requests for meeting space.
This motivation aligns with the recent announcement that Gateway Community & Technical College will expand its urban campus throughout Downtown. “We’ve been working closely [with Gateway] to make sure that what we’re doing compliments what they’re doing, and vice versa,” Schroeder said. “It’s been a great cooperative effort.” Schroeder could not speak specifically on future collaboration between the Covington library and Gateway, but is excited to see where this partnership will lead.
Covington Schools Superintendent Alvin Garrison echoed the importance of the Covington branch’s long-standing partnership with Covington’s schools. "Kenton County libraries and the Covington branch are helping level the playing field of achievement for our students,” Garrison said.
Along these lines, a major component of the renovation involved dedicating the entire lower level to children’s and teen books and programming, including special computer terminals designed specifically for young children.
“A hallmark of this branch in particular and the system as a whole is we’ve always had really strong partnerships throughout the community,” said Allegrini.
Building and strengthening these and other partnerships sit as the library’s top priority, now that the renovation project has reached completion. That, and being a good neighbor for all of Covington, Allegrini said. “We’re very fortunate that our neighbors have been patient with us throughout this renovation. It’s our turn again to be a good neighbor.”