Source: The Early Life of Lexington [KY] before the Year 1820, Mary Estelle Delcamp, A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Transylvania College in Candidacy for the Degree of Master of Arts June, 1916

The library, established in 1795, was another important educational factor. In January of that year a general meeting of sharers was held to adopt a constitution, pay subscriptions, order books, and appoint committees for the ensuing year (June 10, 1795). Within a month of this meeting, one hundred shares had been taken (Feb. 14, 1795). The volumes ordered from the East were not received until a year later (Jan. 30, 1796). In April of 1796 a catalogue of books was published, showing that the library contained 410 books (Apr. 16, 1796). This number was augmented thru the contributions of liberal patrons (Jan. 31, 1799).

For the first few years the library was kept at Transylvania Seminary, but in 1799 it was removed to Andrew M’Calla’s house on Short Street. It was in this year that 500 shares, at $5.00 each, were put on the market for interested patrons. The librarian attended the first Saturday in each month, from two thirty until five p.m. Each sharer was entitled to two books, which had to be returned the following month by three p.m., or the holder was fined two pence per volume. The fines became proportionately larger as the time of books overdue became longer; for two months a fine of six pence was charged; for three months, ten pence; for four months, one shilling, four pence; for five months, two shillings; for six months the share of the patron was forfeited. The cost of maintenance was covered by semi-annual dues of seventy five cents, payable the first Saturday of June and December (May 23, 1799).

In 1800 a meeting was called to consider petitioning the next General Assembly for the incorporation of the Library Company (Sept. 29, 1800).

The early librarian, like his modern successor, had his troubles. In 1803 there was complaint that sundry prints had been torn out of books. Particularly were the faces of William Penn and Edmund Burke the victims of admirers or foes (Apr. 26, 1803).

In 1806 the directors again sent to Philadelphia for an additional number of volumes (September __, 1806). In order to finance better the rapidly increasing library, in 1810 the dues were advanced to one dollar, and a fine of twenty five cents was imposed for every month the dues were in arrears (May 29, 1810). Six years later shares were declared forfeited, on failure of the holder to pay three semi-annual contributions (Feb. 5, 1806). The library fund was also augmented by the generosity of public-spirited friends. Mr. Ogilvie, after a lecture course in 1811, presented the library with the proceeds arising from his two "orations." (July 16, 1811).

In 1819 the library still lacked a building suitable for its purpose. It was occupying a house held at the sufferance of the county court, and this privilege might be revoked at any moment. Furthermore a recent acquisition of $1,000 worth of books made the room entirely too small. A need was also felt for two rooms: one for a library proper: and one "for those who wished to consult authors, without taking away books." The reading room was considered especially necessary for Transylvania University students. However there were no funds with which to build. Some citizens had suggested that the union of the Athenaeum with the library would solve the difficulty (Mar. 19, 1819). The matter seems to have dragged on indefinitely and no building to have been erected, at least before 1820.

In 1812 the youth of the city took definite action, looking towards the establishment of a juvenile library. A lottery was conducted, which realised them $307 (Apr. 14, 1812). The first collection of books was described as consisting of "60 volumes, mostly octave editions, and commonly worn-out duodecimes." These books were kept at a private house, the entire collection being the result of a voluntary contribution of two volumes from each boy sharer. A year later the library was in flourishing condition: $190 had been sent to Philadelphia for books; $117 worth were bought at home. In the building were 340 volumes and a handsome book-case. All debts were paid, and there was $30 in the treasury (Jan. 19, 1813). In May of that year it was thought wise to move headquarters to the "white house on Market Street, between M’Calla, Gaines and Co.’s Shop and the Episcopal Church." The number of books was now 475, and William Huston Jr. was the librarian (May 18, 1813). The Juvenile library continued thus for three years, until 1816, when at the suggestion of the directors it was united with the city library (Mar. 4,1816).

Transcribed February 2002 by pb

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