The Acme Book Club
Public library service in Nicholasville and Jessamine County started in 1896. This was the year in which the Acme Book Club, a local literary society, accrued a collection of 600 books obtained, for the most part, by donations from club members.
The Withers Library
In 1897, Sarah Rice Withers, then a resident of Bloomington, Illinois, and formerly a member of the Nicholasville Presbyterian Church, bequeathed a sum of money to “the trustees of the Presbyterian Church of Nicholasville, Kentucky” for the purpose of founding and establishing a public circulating library to be called the Withers Library.
After receiving the Withers bequest, which amounted to $32,943, the trustees rented and equipped a room on the ground floor of the building at Maple and First Street. Some 1,200 additional books were purchased, a librarian and assistant employed, and professional help obtained to catalog the books. This facility operated on a full time basis six days a week until 1906.
In 1906, a contract was let to construct a large two-story brick building on the northwest corner of Main and Oak Streets. It was constructed to provide rental income from three separate rooms on the first floor and have a much larger library on the second floor. It was opened to the public on July 22, 1907 and provided library services for over 60 years.
Although not originally affiliated with the Withers Library or its then current trustees, an additional library service to the community was inaugurated during the late 1950’s and 1960’s. The State Department for Libraries and Archives furnished a bookmobile and book collection to the Jessamine County Board of Education.
A Growing Community
The year of 1968 saw the successful passage of a local library tax in the original amount of two cents per $100.00 of property valuation. After successfully establishing this local taxing district, long-term plans were begun to expand local library services in order to meet the demands of the growing community.
The Withers-Jessamine County Public Library
Recognizing the need for even better facilities, the Withers trustees financed the purchase of real estate and the construction of a new library building at Second and Chestnut Streets. The building at Second and Chestnut was occupied as the Withers-Jessamine County Public Library for five years and was the headquarters library for the Bluegrass South Regional Library District.
The Withers Memorial Public Library
Under provisions afforded by the Library Services and Construction Act, the Board received an amortization grant in the amount of $14,500 per year for 20 years from the State Department for Libraries and Archives to be used toward the construction and equipping of a new library building.
To supervise this undertaking, a five-member holding company was incorporated under the name of the Jessamine County Public Library District Construction Corporation. The Construction Corporation purchased a building lot on the corner of Second and Maple Street. Construction started in June 1974 and was completed in February of 1975. In May of 1975, the building was dedicated as the Withers Memorial Public Library.
In 1994, faced once again with the need for additional space, the Trustees completed a petition to increase the library tax to 4.9 cents per hundred dollars. This allowed the Construction Corporation to float a municipal bond to construct a new facility at 600 South Main Street.
The Department for Libraries and Archives supported the effort by awarding a Construction Grant of $350,000. The library, which continued the name of Withers Memorial Public Library, opened in September of 1996.
The Jessamine County Public Library
In February of 2001, the Trustees voted to change the name to the Jessamine County Public Library. At that time the meeting room was renamed the Sarah Rice Withers Room. The building was expanded in 2003 on the north end due to public demand for the benefits and services the library provides to the community.
To meet the increased need for more books, technology, meeting room space, programs, and other materials, the Jessamine County Public Library began an expansion project in October 2015 and reopened on January 19, 2016.
The $7 million expansion allowed the library to double in size to 41,000 square feet. The size of meeting room space tripled, and the Children’s Library more than doubled to about 6,000 square feet. The library also added a recording studio, computer classroom, study room, Teen Library, and a creative space with 3D printers and other cutting-edge equipment.
The number of materials in the library’s collection has since increased by about 20 percent. Teen and adult programming have increased by about 50 percent. In 2016, the Kentucky Public Library Association recognized JCPL as one of nine exemplary libraries in the state.
In a rapidly changing world, the Jessamine County Public Library seeks to bring to its users, in the best way possible, a balance of information, ideas and cultural opportunities.