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Author: Alexander Michl
Title: A Jewel in Appalachia
Category: Justice & equity
Description: Louisa is the small-county seat of 2,327, in Kentucky’s largest county. It is a familiar place, where neighbors may or may not be friends, but they can probably tell stories about one another. It’s a place where the majority of the 4,000 residents have both grown up and old together. It’s a place of scarcity. Yet it is also a place many do not leave.
Carlie Pelfrey did. But, she also came back. After a career in television broadcasting, she returned to her hometown as the director of the Lawrence County Public Library.
She came back with a vision for a library that would house hope not just books. It would be a beacon for learning in a place where light can struggle to break through poverty’s pervasive darkness.
The original 1960s building with limited windows and collection space, high shelves, hidden and inadequate seating and storage, could not deliver on that promise. So, together with library designers at OPN Architects, Pelfrey and her board embarked on a transformation of the library into a jewel for its community and for Appalachia.
They were committed to a process and a promise for a renovation that would create an epicenter for the county; embrace justice, equity, and care; address challenges head on; highlight access and opportunity; and most importantly celebrate the belief that a modern library can thrive anywhere.
The renovated library, which opened in February 2020, manifests this mission. It is transparent, accessible, flexible, easy to navigate, promotes digital literacy, and is welcoming and inclusive to all ages.
The library is prideful without being ostentatious. It is now a place where a love for learning is on display, showing residents that they deserve to aspire for better.
The Lawrence County Public Library is an act of love.