Mary Lou Johnson
Hardin County District Library

Kenton, OH

Ohio Library Rich in History and Proactive Choices


On December 7, 1936, a resolution was passed by the Kenton Ohio Public Library Board, to extend the facilities of the Carnegie Library to all people in Hardin County. Then the name of the library was officially changed to the Hardin County District Library. 

In the early 1960s, it was evident that the Carnegie Library was outgrown. Miss Mary Lou Johnson, who was a board member, offered a substantial gift to the library for a new building if the remainder of the money needed could be raised by private subscription. 

The drive for funds for a new library building began in September of 1966 and, by the end of the year, the entire amount had been raised in cash and pledges. The next issue was finding an appropriate site for the new building with adequate parking space for the patrons. Since the old high school at the corner of East Columbus and High Streets was no longer being used, negotiations with the school board soon rendered a suitable site and the old building was demolished to make way for the new one. In memory of what used to be, a pillar from the old school is located on the northeast corner of the north terrace. 

Construction began right away and the move to the new building was accomplished on March 17, 1968 with formal dedication on April 19, 1969. The library (shown above) was dedicated to the memory of Mary Lou Johnson after her death in 1977 due to her extensive work in making the new building a reality. 

On digitizing their precious history, Head of Reference Librarian, Sandy Thaxton told American Digital Memories, “Having our local newspapers digitized is very important to me. Being a small library with limited time to research and being able to search by name or keyword is amazing! It saves so much time. Previously, doing a search could take days if I was looking through a year’s worth of microfilm. Now it takes under an hour. We have had two patrons try our new digitization so far – one from Arizona and one from Columbus, Ohio, and they were able to find exciting information about their ancestors that they were unable to find anywhere else! It’s definitely a time saver!” 

Hardin County’s Director, Sam Norris (shown above), had this to say about his experience with ADM:
“Working with American Digital Memories to convert our local newspapers was a dream. It is rare in today’s world that your expectations are met … let alone EXCEEDED! From the very first e-mail to phone conversations, the people helped make the difference. Since some of our newspapers were from the late 1800s, I was prepared to manage my digital conversion quality expectation. I was amazed at how all of the newspapers turned out. The finished product has decreased our search times and allows staff and patrons of the library to effectively search. Using the searchable pdf formatting, the names jump from the page.”

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