Louisville Free Public Library

Louisville Free Public Library
TypePublic Library
Reference to legal mandateKRS 173.105
LocationLouisville, Kentucky
Access and use
Population served771,158
Other information
Budget$22,298,100 (FY '21)
DirectorLee Burchfield
AffiliationAFSCME Local 3425
References: [1]

The Louisville Free Public Library (LFPL) is the public library system in Louisville, Kentucky, and the largest public library system in the U.S. state of Kentucky.



The Louisville Free Public Library was created in 1902 by an act of the Kentucky State Legislature, and in 1904 it merged with the Polytechnic Society. Services began in 1905 when the Polytechnic Society's collection, held in the top floors of the Kenyon Building, was open to the public.[2] Although the Main Library was completed in 1906, patron services did not officially begin until 1908.[3]

Additional branches were added over time, including the Western Colored Branch, which was the first Carnegie-housed library in the U.S. built solely for African Americans. Thomas Fountain Blue was appointed head of the Colored Branch in 1905 as well as the Eastern Colored Branch when it opened in 1914; he also started the first library training program for African Americans in the United States.[4] At one time LFPL had over 30 branches, but a number of them were forced to close due to lack of funding. Currently, there are 16 branches, in addition to the main library site. Internet services and inter-library loan have helped to make up for having fewer branches.

In 1950 the library became the first library in the nation to put its own FM-radio station on the air—WFPL. A second station, WFPK, joined it a few years later.

Flood of 1937

The infamous Flood of 1937 damaged both the Portland and Main branches. Since 1908 a museum was opened to the public in the basement of the York Street branch. After the devastating flood, the museum was temporary relocated to the Monserrat school. In 1971, the museum moved downtown to West Main Street to become the Louisville Science & History Museum.

Tax Referendum of 2007

In 2007, a proposed tax increase to pay for Louisville Free Public Library improvements and ongoing costs was soundly defeated in spite of strong support by many political and business leaders. Nonetheless, with the help of the Library Foundation and community support, a new education and technology-driven, $1.9 million branch library[5] was completed and opened in the Newburg area (a traditionally underserved community) in August 2009.

Flood of 2009

In early August 2009 the main branch was flooded when a storm dropped 7 inches (18 cm) of water on the city in 75 minutes. The library servers, bookmobiles, offices, and processing rooms were under 6 feet (180 cm) of water. 50,000 books were destroyed, and the building severely damaged, with a total estimate of $5 million. Structural, mechanical, electrical, and computer systems damage were near complete, forcing the main library to close for several weeks. Other branches in the system in hard-hit areas were closed for a few days while damage was assessed and cleanup undertaken. The library system itself remained open for business throughout the event. The last time the main building had flooded was in the Ohio River flood of 1937. Three other branches of the library system were damaged or affected in the flooding as well: Bon Air Regional Branch, Iroquois Branch, and Shawnee Branch libraries. Despite the level of damage, library services at all branches, including the main, were able to return to near full service.


The Main Library serves as a central hub to the library system, including facilities, content management, and administration. In addition to the Main Library, LFPL has 16 branch libraries. The main library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.[6]

Name Photo Location Date Commissioned Notes
Main Library 301 York St, Louisville, Kentucky 40203
Bon Air 2816 Del Rio Pl. Louisville, Kentucky 40220
Crescent Hill 2762 Frankfort Ave., Louisville, KY 40206
Fairdale 10620 W. Manslick Rd, Louisville, KY 40118
Highlands-Shelby Park 1250 Bardstown Rd., #4, Louisville, KY 40204
Iroquois 601 W. Woodlawn Ave., Louisville, KY 40215
Jeffersontown 10635 Watterson Trail, Louisville, KY 40299
Middletown 12556 Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243
Newburg 4800 Exeter Ave., Louisville, KY 40218
Northeast Regional 15 Bellevoir Circle, Louisville, KY 40223
Portland 3305 Northwestern Pkwy, Louisville, KY 40212
St. Matthews 3940 Grandview Ave., Louisville, KY 40207
Shawnee 3912 West Broadway, Louisville, KY 40211
Shively 3920 Dixie Highway, Louisville, KY 40216
South Central Regional 7300 Jefferson Boulevard, Louisville, KY 40219
Southwest Regional 9725 Dixie Highway, Louisville, KY 40272
Western 604 South Tenth Street, Louisville, KY 40203

Staff Unionization

The majority of LFPL's employees are employed through a collective bargaining agreement between AFSCME Local 3425 and Louisville Metro Government.

See also


  1. ^ "LFPL Services". Louisville Free Public Library. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  2. ^ "Page 102". The Courier-Journal. 27 July 1958. ProQuest 1866327204.
  3. ^ a b Louisville Free Public Library Board of Trustees. Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Louisville Free Public Library (1905-1911). Louisville, Kentucky. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  4. ^ Burress, Jacob Carlton (2016). The colored librarian: Thomas F. Blue and the Louisville Free Public Library's Colored Department, 1905–1935 (MA). Louisville, Kentucky: University of Louisville. p. 3. doi:10.18297/etd/2420.
  5. ^ "Mayor Leads "Sneak Peek" of Newburg Library - 2009 - LouisvilleKy.gov". Archived from the original on 2009-11-13. Retrieved 2019-07-23.
  6. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Louisville Free Public Library". National Park Service. Retrieved October 15, 2020. With accompanying pictures

External links

  • Louisville Free Public Library

Further reading

  • Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Louisville Free Public Library, The Library, 1905, OCLC 1644732, OL 20486125M
  • Louisville Free Public Library (1914), Some books in the Louisville Free Public Library of interest to Catholic readers, Louisville, Ky, OCLC 8107487, OL 6581880M

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