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Beloved librarian who ran Kenton County’s libraries for 41 years dies at 88

Beloved librarian who ran Kenton County’s libraries for 41 years dies at 88 (WKRC)

COVINGTON, Ky. (WKRC) - The architect of Northern Kentucky's modern library system has passed away.

Mary Ann Mongan, who ran the Covington and Kenton County libraries for 41 years, died on Sunday.

Her legacy is open to the public on the shelf, and online.


Colleagues describe Mary Ann Mongan as a “librarian's librarian.” It should come as no surprise then you can still find the Covington library board minutes of her 1958 hiring in her library system.

“We don't see librarians like her anymore,” said Wayne Onkst, the former Kentucky State Librarian.

A Cincinnati woman, hired in Covington to run a small, underfunded library, had a few ideas of her own.

After 9 years on the job, Mongan took a bold step.

“She pulled together the political leaders and community leaders and raised the petition that allowed us to form the Kenton County Library in 1967,” said Dave Schroeder, the Kenton County Library Director.

Within 10 years, a new Covington library was built, so was the first Erlanger branch, the predecessor of what is now Kentucky’s busiest branch library. She ran the libraries from 1958 to her retirement in 1999.

“So, over that 40 years, what she was able to produce and what she was able to maintain and grow was phenomenal,” said Onkst.

What she started with one lending library and a staff of 12 is now three modern branches with a staff of nearly 200.

Mary Ann Mongan was all about books, but when libraries changed to be about things other than books, she changed too.

She embraced modern technology, but also people. She grew talent. Wayne Onkst took over when she retired and went on to become the Kentucky State Librarian.

Current director, Dave Schroeder was hired by Mongan as a “book shelver” when he was 18-years-old.

“As a result of that, library directors from all over Kentucky and Ohio worked under her including the library directors in Kenton, Boone and Grant Counties,” said Schroeder.

Mary Ann Mongan died Sunday. She was 88-year-old. Her legacy lives on in a lot of people and places.

The Covington branch bears her name. What she built is there for anyone to check out.

Mary Ann Mongans' funeral is this Sunday at Saint Mary Church in Hyde Park.

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