The Clay County Public Library opened in 1954 with the Manchester Woman’s Club taking the responsibility of making it a reality. Books and magazines were contributed by club members and their friends. A room for our library was provided in the basement of the Court House, and all work and books were given on a voluntary basis. Club members and Girl Scouts kept the library open one-half day, two days a week. April 1, 1954, the bookmobile project was planned for Clay County through the help of the Department of Libraries, Friends of Libraries, and the Clay County Board of Education and interested teachers and friends. The Library Board was organized with the following members serving:
- Mrs. Bettie M. Hensley, Chairman
- Mrs. Mozetta Hatcher
- Mrs. Marion C. Martin
- Mr. Eugene Clark
- Mr. Kelly Morgan
- Mrs. Gladys Hacker
Marion Martin (head librarian for approx. 30 years)
At the Kentucky State Fair, the first bookmobile and approximately 800 new books were given to Clay County. Mr. Kelly Morgan and Mrs. Bea Burchell, President of the Woman’s Club, were present to receive the bookmobile and bring it to Clay County. Library services through the bookmobile and the library center began to grow and the public received the services enthusiastically. Part-time librarian’s were hired and many new books were added. The Manchester Woman’s Clubs’ baby grew, and in 1960 the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the V.F.W. joined in the effort to develop this project to full healthy adulthood.
In March 1961, the library moved to a new location next to the First State Bank. The whole community cooperated with donations, labor, and materials to remodel and prepare the building. Through these combined efforts in July of 1961 the Clay County Public Library became a member of the “Valley of Parks” Regional Library System and received $5,000 worth of new books, records, and paintings. The fall of 1962, a drive was made to pass a 3¢ per $100.00 assessment library tax for the county, which received a favorable vote in the November Election of two to one. This gave Clay County a new $9,500 bookmobile and another $1,000 worth of new books. The bookmobile is now in operation ten days each month serving some 60 county schools and school districts. The clubs continued to pay the rent and meet needs of the library and bookmobile until the library tax money was collected by the County Court. In 1963 the Library Board received an Accomplishment Grant of $1,000.00 for having has a successful vote for a library tax. The library project proved to be well worth the effort and hard Hork of all concerned and since more space was needed for expansion the board made another step toward reaching a goal for a new library with facilities to help all the citizens of the county. A Clay County Public Library Service Corporation was legally established to transact the business of purchasing all the library facilities. The members of this corporation were:
- Carl H. Stinson, Chairman
- Willie Cornett
- Lester Hensley
- Eddie Mobley
- Roger Martin
In 1966 a new building was purchased in downtown Manchester at 211 Bridge Street. This was a large two-story building with a large glass front. An application was made by the board to the Federal Government for a grant through the Library Services and Construction Act to help pay for the building and remodel the area into a modern library. The Library Board raised the matching money and the building was purchased for $50,000,00 . Bids were let and remodeling was done. On completion, the building provided a well equipped library for all the citizens of Clay County. In 1970 the Clay County Public Library Services Corporation bought an adjoining building, facing Main Street, which was purchased for $2,500.00. This added space to the present building and provided extra income through rent.
The Clay County Public Library is a pleasant, inviting facility. A complete renovation in 2006 created a new outside façade, as well as giving the interior a new updated look. The library houses a book collection of 35,000 volumes.
The 6,789 sq. foot facility offers quiet reading areas where books, newspapers, and magazines can be enjoyed. The main lobby of the library houses the computer section and the library automated catalog. Wi-Fi is available to those patrons who have their own laptops or tablets. The library offers a beautiful children’s area where multi-generational programs take place for families of the community. A large community room is available for public meetings of civic or community groups. This room may be rented for birthday parties, showers, and other social events.