History of Worthington Libraries

The roots of Worthington Libraries can be traced to the small New England town of Granby, Connecticut. It was from Granby in 1803 that a group of 100 men, women and children set out to begin a new life in Worthington, Ohio. Among the possessions they brought with them were the books for what they would call the Stanbery Library, a subscription library named for its principal benefactor. This library was the first in Franklin County and only the third in the state.

Throughout the next 100 years, library service in Worthington took many forms—books were kept at the school, the local post office, etc.—but it was inevitably kept alive by groups of local citizens. They knew that if a community was to survive and grow its residents must have a library to provide opportunities for enhanced education and continued learning.

In 1903, the Fortnightly Club, a women's Shakespeare study club, took over management of the Worthington Reading Room. In 1908 the Fortnightly Club moved to establish the Worthington Public Library Association to take advantage of local tax funds.

In 1925, the Library was placed in control of the school board, establishing it as a school district public library. This assured the Library of much-needed financial support but did not provide an actual building to house the collection. This changed in 1927 when Elizabeth Jones Deshler donated money for a library building on the northeast corner of the Village Green, the area set aside by Worthington's founders for the public pursuit of learning and education. Mrs. Deshler dedicated the building to the memory of her grandfather, Worthington founder James Kilbourne. In 1931, Mrs. Deshler funded the addition of north and south wings on the James Kilbourne Memorial Library Building.

By 1950, library use had increased tremendously. Although the James Kilbourne Memorial Library Building was less than 25 years old, the growing collection and increasing circulation were already straining the facility, and it was finally expanded in 1956.

In 1973, the Library proposed moving less than a mile north on land it had purchased for this possibility. The community was outraged at the prospect of the Library being located anywhere but the Village Green and defeated levy issues to build a new facility in 1973 and 1974. The library staff persevered in their cramped conditions until a final solution was found in 1976 when the school board agreed to a property swap with the Library. Groundbreaking for the new facility was held on July 4, 1978 and it was dedicated October 21, 1979. The new library was within sight of the old Village Green location (put to use as a school administration office).

Although the community supported the Library through its patronage, it had thus far refused to pay for it with local tax support. This finally changed in 1992, when the community voted to support a 2.2 mill property tax levy to maintain service at Old Worthington Library and fund a new library to provide service to the growing northwest-area population. This levy was scheduled to expire in 2015.

The Northwest Library, which opened in 1996, was made possible through a unique partnership agreement with the Columbus Metropolitan Library. The Columbus Metropolitan Library Board of Trustees agreed to buy the land for a future library and hold it until the Worthington Libraries levy passed in 1992. Now more than 20 years old, the Northwest Library is still jointly operated by Worthington Libraries and the Columbus Metropolitan Library and is managed by Worthington Libraries.

In the early 2000s, the Library was one again faced with an increase in use coupled with a decline in revenue. Thanks to a grassroots campaign led by members of the Friends of Worthington Libraries and the library board, the Library was successful in passing a permanent 2.6 mill property tax levy in November 2005.

Worthington Libraries received national recognition when it was named the 2007 Library of the Year by Library Journal magazine and Gale Publishing. Worthington Libraries is one of only 20 libraries in the country to have received a five-star rating from Library Journal in every Index of Library Service that has been published.

In April 2008, 12 years after the opening of Northwest Library, the new Worthington Park Library opened. Located in the Worthington Park Shopping Center, this storefront library serves patrons in the northeast section of our service area and was expanded to meet growing demand in 2013.

Also in 2013, residents of the Worthington School District overwhelmingly voted to permanently replace the library's 2.2 mill property tax levy which was set to expire in 2015.

Worthington Libraries is one of the busiest library systems in Ohio, ranked only behind the eight metropolitan libraries in terms of use. We provide a wide array of high-quality materials, services and programs for residents of the Worthington School District and maintain the pioneering spirit of the library's founders as we continually look for new and better ways to meet the changing needs of patrons.

revised August 2016