A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Commentary: Clyde and Mary Middleton played legacy roles in growth of Kenton County libraries

By Wayne Onkst and Dave Schroeder
Kenton County Public Library

Like so many Northern Kentuckians, we were saddened by the passing of Clyde Middleton.

Clyde and Mary Middleton participated in countless civic activities that made Northern Kentucky a better place. As the current and former Executive Directors of the Kenton County Public Library, we want to make sure the public knows about one of their least known, but possibly most important, accomplishments in our region.

Mary and Clyde Middleton

More than 50 years ago in 1967, library services in Kenton County were comprised of the Carnegie Library in Covington, funded by the City of Covington; the Erlanger-Elsmere Library, operated by the Erlanger Woman’s Club; and a bookmobile sponsored by the Kenton County Fiscal Court.

The Covington Carnegie Library had limited shelving space and was in a deteriorating condition. The Erlanger Library was located in a former residence and the bookmobile was only able to reach a limited number of people in southern Kenton County.

Plans were developed to merge the three entities and organize a county-wide library system to more efficiently serve Kenton County.

The efforts to form the system were bipartisan.

Clyde Middleton, a Republican, and Larry Grause, a Democrat, stepped forward and volunteered to lead the charge. Middleton played a significant role in making sure the efforts met the legal requirements for establishing a library district. The petition would not only form the county into one library system but also called for a new Covington Library building and the first permanent branch building in Erlanger.

Leading this effort was no easy task as it was necessary to pull together a coalition to gather signatures of Kenton County Residents on a petition to form the district.

Dozens of residents, including a persistent Mary Middleton, walked neighborhoods throughout Kenton County to obtain the required signatures.

The goal was reached on June 6, 1967. The petition was certified by the County Clerk A.T. Wood and the new Kenton County Library District was officially recognized by Judge-Executive James Dressman and the fiscal court.

In time, new libraries were built in Covington and Erlanger, eventually to be joined by the Durr Library near Independence.

Without the work of Clyde and Mary Middleton, we probably would not have the award-winning library services that have been enjoyed by three generations of Kenton Countians.

Wayne Onkst is former executive director of Kenton County Public Library. Dave Schroeder is current executive director.

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