In this era of digital libraries, machine assisted indexing and technological advancements that seem to evolve on a daily basis, it is more than nostalgic to hear about the struggles of librarians before technology – even before motorized transportation; it is inspiring. This interesting story came from the Archive Project in their article, “The Amazing Story Of Kentucky’s Horseback Librarians.”

In the years after the Great Depression, President Roosevelt enacted The New Deal, a series of programs to provide relief for the unemployed and poor, recovery of the economy to normal levels, and reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression. Most people think of Social Security, but there were many other projects to help people get back on their feet. One of them was the Pack Horse Library Project of Eastern Kentucky.

The people of Eastern Kentucky had been hit especially hard by the Depression, and many of them had little connection to the outside world. This particular project brought in librarians from around the state and charged them with establishing routine library services in the remotest of towns. Librarians riding horses or mules traveled 50 to 80 miles a week up rocky creek beds, along muddy footpaths, and among cliffs to deliver reading materials to the most remote residences and schools in the mountains. By the early 1940s, the program had put together 30 libraries that reached out to nearly 100,000 Eastern Kentucky residents.

Melody K. Smith

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