Lexington Public Library in Lexington, KY

"We've got something for everyone"

Kids love reading, when you give them a chance to do it. (Credit: Doug Tattershall)

Every day, the Lexington Public Library opens its doors to everyone, and we’re not happy unless they’re happy! We help people find jobs, learn new things, raise kids who love learning, and bring an entire community together while doing it. It isn’t so much the great spaces, like our computer commons or our theater or our gallery or our children’s story areas. It’s our staff, who never work harder than when they’re face-to-face with a customer. It’s easy to miss what a difference we make to the entire community when you look at how we meet customers one-on-one right where they are. Likewise, you can miss what a personal impact we make when you just look at the numbers — nearly two million visits each year! Sure, people love free stuff, but what they really love is going to a place where they always feel welcome and helped, with whatever it is.

Stories About Lexington Public Library

When Melody Newton’s parents passed away, she found a collection of quilting squares her mother had left behind, unused.

“They were from all sorts of materials Mom had gathered over the years. I even found some from a dress I had worn as a girl,” Melody says.

So Melody took up quilting. She joined Wednesday Quilting Friends and met up once a week at the makerspace in the Eastside Branch. Now Melody is ready to do something with her mother’s quilting squares. Nine somethings, to be exact. One for each of her mother’s great-grandchildren.

“I want to tell a story,” Abraham Mwinda says of the music he records at the Lexington Public Library’s Northside Branch.

Abraham writes his own songs, and found that when he performs, people want to know where they can buy his music. So he made a recording at the library’s digital studio. He even shot music videos there. Who knows where music will take him? But regardless of how big a stage he ends up on, he already knows the satisfaction of someone saying, “Hey, I heard your song, and it really said something to me.”

“Music breaks barriers. A song is three minutes when people can listen and enjoy themselves and get up and dance. They’re more open to a message when it’s a song than if it were a speech,” he says.

Abraham has taken what he learned at the Library and used it to create his own recording space at home. He recorded his second album there.

Carlos Saucedo, an eighth grade student, is the latest spokesman in the Lexington Public Library’s Make It Here Do It Here ad campaign, and he has some great things to say about Homework Help at the Village Branch.

“Whenever there’s someone there working with me, I feel like I really do matter,” he says. “We look at the problems I need help in and discuss what I did wrong and what I did right. And then we go through it together.”

Carlos studies at Lexington Traditional Magnet School. He has been going to Homework Help since second or third grade, but found himself especially relying on the help offered there in sixth grade when he was at risk of being held back a grade.

“I really didn’t want to be the class clown, so I started to keep up with my homework and going a lot more to the library because there are a lot of smart people over there,” he says. “I studied harder, went to the library more and I just kept doing my homework. Carlos and his brother spent a morning working with the Marketing Department staff and Village Branch Library Assistant Assistant Alexis Meza de los Santos to shoot photos and video for the ad campaign.

Charlie Gough’s father gave him a Brownie Hawkeye camera when he was a boy, but he didn’t really take to photography. Not until a couple years ago.

“I’d go on walks and see a bird and want to take a look at him. But birds move fast. So now I need to take pictures,” he says.

He bought an easy-to-use point-and-shoot camera, but soon upgraded to something better.

“Here I am and I got this camera, but I didn’t know what I was doing. So I came to the library and checked out books,” he says.

Eventually, Charlie found more than books at the Lexington Public Library. He found the Tates Creek Photography Club, a group that meets monthly at the library’s Tates Creek Branch. Now he knows all about depth of field, ISO, shutter speed and leading lines.

“Photography satisfies a creative process that I don’t normally get to use. It’s a great escape, but with the photography club it’s also a chance to get together with other people who share the same interest,” he says. W

ho knew a rock could brighten someone’s day? Vickie Curry knew. She knows how to find a good rock. Smooth with not too many dimples. And she knows how to make people smile. She paints rocks and hides them for people to find.

“We hide them everywhere,” she says.

Vickie makes it happen at the Eastside Branch’s makerspace. Her group, Bluegrass Rock Painters, has been meeting there since February, with as many as 28 people showing up to paint.

“The rock tells you what to do with it. You just look at the rock to see what it’s saying to you, and if you’ll go with that, you’ll see when it’s finished that, ‘Hey! That’s right!'” she says.

Bluegrass Rock Painters have sent painted rocks to soldiers in Afghanistan and hidden them at Korsair Children’s Hospital in Louisville.

Dave McWhorter, known as Drummer Dave, has been producing free jazz concerts for the Central Library for more than a decade. Jazz! Live at the Library started in March 2007 and is now an ongoing series of live music that has featured more than 200 performers and a total audience of about 10,000.

“That a lot of impact. That’s a lot of shows,” Dave says.

Dave brought with him his own piano, an instrument from the old Coach House restaurant, where he performed every weekend from 1994 to 2001. In addition to producing the monthly concerts for the library, he has allowed other groups in the Farish Theater to use the piano as well.

“It’s been a good fit,” he said of the partnership. “It gives musicians access to the whole community, which you don’t really get when you’re playing at a night club.”

Dave first got to thinking about the library as a music venue during the American Library Association’s “Jazz Age in Paris” exhibit, which made a stop at the Central Library Gallery and included live performances in the theater. Producing the Library concert series has helped him stay involved with his own music. He has played drums for about a quarter of the concerts. Jazz! Live at the Library is funded by music publisher Jamey Aebersold of New Albany, Indiana, who has donated as much as $7,500 annually to maintain the series.

Festivities make it outdoors. (Credit: Doug Tattershall)

Brionna Ashley needed a place to work…and a place for her daughter to play. So she found a computer in the children’s department at the Northside Branch, where she could keep an eye on her daughter and a grant application she was working on. Brionna was seeking funds to host monthly workshops in underserved communities.

“If we all come together, we can help each other. We can strengthen the whole community and the families,” she says.

Brionna was seeking a grant through her organization, Lexington Dream Chasers Empowerment Project, to create workshops that are one part education and one part socializing, allowing families to both grow and connect. With funds from Blue Grass Community Foundation, she wanted to bring families to William Wells Brown Elementary School, where they could enjoy dinner together, build birdhouses, and learn how to build safer neighborhoods. The Northside library provided the space for her to work, but it ended up providing more. It all started with a piece of paper from Jenny Lewis, Northside’s branch manager.

“I asked her for a piece of paper, and then I was like, ‘How does this sound? What do you think?'” she recalls.

Jenny took a look and assured her that the application looked great. Soon after, they bumped into each other again, this time at the Blue Grass Community Foundation’s announcement of new grants. Both Lexington Dream Chasers and the Northside Branch had received grants, so they both got to congratulate each other!

Brionna sees the library as a great place for her family but also as a great place for her work with the Lexington Dream Chasers Empowerment Project.

“The library is a great resource to show children that reading is important, that the library is a meeting place, it’s a safe place. It’s where we can all get together,” she said.

Anthony Rahn wanted to make his own card game back when he was 7. Today, he’s a junior taking graphic design classes at Bryan Station High School as well as at the Northside Branch Digital Studio. And he hasn’t forgotten about that card game.

About three months ago, he thought to himself, “I’ll do it this time. I have all the tools, and I know what I’m doing now.”

Using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator at the Digital Studio, he created a card game with a deck of about a hundred cards. Then he tested it with the library staff and other teens at a Northside game night. This trial run resulted in an updated game with a larger deck.

The game is called Mortem Ludum, Latin for “Death Game.” Cards represent monsters, each with his own particular strengths, or sorceries, magic that can help. Two players face each other starting with ten thousand essential points. The goal is to eliminate your opponent’s essential points while maintaining your own.

Rahn plans to pursue a career in graphic design and digital art. In addition to classes in Photoshop and Illustrator, he has taken classes at the Digital Studio on photography and 3D printing.