About Us

Our Mission

The library is committed to providing public access to information and materials, regardless of format, for library customers, with friendly, competent, accurate and expedient service. 

We will preserve and make accessible the history and culture of our community.  We place a special emphasis on children’s programming to meet their educational needs.  Library materials and services shall encourage and satisfy the customer’s love of books, quest for information, and life long learning.


Harlan County Public Library was first established in February of 1925. Members of the Harlan Women’s Civic League started the library with 38 books. It was first in a small building on Main Street. The Harlan City Council allowed the library to open in a room on the second floor of the old city hall building. During the Great Depression the Pack Horse Library also worked out of the same room and supplemented one another.

After World War II, an agreement arranged by KDLA secured funding for the library from Harlan City Council and Harlan Fiscal Court. Mrs. Ellen McNew was the first librarian. The library site has been on the Third Street since 1968, thanks to donations from Bryan Whitfield and Ellen McNew.


Evarts Public Library had its beginnings as a stationary bookmobile located in North Evarts. In April of 2011, the board opened a ‘one-room, storefront’ library in a space rented from the Masonic Lodge.

Within the first 2 years, the board realized community usage of the small library warranted building a larger permanent structure. Our current building was opened in August, 2016, offering additional facilities for programming, events, and use by our Cloverfork area patrons.

Rebecca Caudill Public Library was first established in 1965 in an old store building located on Myers Street in Cumberland, Kentucky. It was funded by the State Department of Libraries. When the library was opened it was named in honor of a local author, Rebecca Caudill.

In 1972, the Cumberland Branch moved to a newly constructed building funded by state library funds. Then, in 1995, an extension to the library building was made possible due to project funds provided by an LSCA Grant through the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, the Harlan County Library District, and gifts.

About Rebecca Caudill

Rebecca was born in Cumberland, KY on February 2, 1899 on 402 River Street (known as Poor Fork). She died on October 2, 1985 at 9:15 p.m. in Urbana, Illinois at the age of 86.

Rebecca was 1 of 11 children. Her parents were George Washington and Susan Smith Caudill (both were teachers). At age 5, Rebecca Caudill’s family left the mountains and moved to Sumner County, TN, where she received her high school education and grew up. She attended Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia for 4 years and received a Masters Degree from Vanderbilt in International Relations. The following year she set out to see the world. She taught English to children of 19 nationalities. She traveled over most of Europe. Returning to Nashville, she met James Sterling Ayars, also a writer, and they were married in 1931 and settled in Urbana. Mr. and Mrs. Ayars had two children. A son, James Jr., and a daughter, Becky Jean. Ms. Caudill authored 22 books, of which most settings were in Appalachia. Mrs. Ayars describes one morning in February of 1965 as being one of the most thrilling days of her life, when she received a telephone call from Cumberland, KY stating the people in Harlan County had decided to tax themselves to support a library. They could not receive state or federal aid unless they voted for a tax. The tax had been voted on and Cumberland, KY was soon to have a library and the trustees had decided it was to be called The Rebecca Caudill Public Library!

We are proud of Rebecca Caudill Ayars and to have given the public library her distinguished name, a woman of such literary distinction from our hometown.

Harlan County Public Library District
Board of Trustees

Roland Cornett, President

Kimberly Williams, Vice President

Linda Blevins, Treasurer

Mark Ford, Secretary

Lynn Cox

Richard Haynes, Director

Renae Shepherd, Branch Director

Jennifer Creech, Branch Director

Lisa Adkisson, Branch Director


You will need an ID, a piece of mail with your name and current address, and two references.

Signing up for a card is free, but replacing a card is $1.

Online apps, such as Libby and Hoopla, are immediately available for use. However, there is an initial limitation to the amount of physical items that can be checked out, which will vary depending on each branch. You may ask any librarian at your local library.

You can simply go to your local branch and ask for a new card. Replacements cost $1.

Overdue books are five cents per day, and overdue DVDs are one dollar per day. If you are not able to bring in items by their due date, you can always call your local library and ask to renew them so that late fees won’t accumulate.

You can return library materials after-hours by placing them in any of our branch location dropboxes.

However, please be aware that some items, such as DVDs or audiobooks, must not be placed in the dropboxes, as damages may occur to the items.

There are some events that require registration. The calendar on the Home page will include registration or reservation information (if there are any). However, you can always check any event requirements by contacting your local library.

We only accept cash.

We can copy, print, fax, scan, and laminate. Prices vary depending on the branch.

Each branch has its own genealogy reference section. Each section varies based on the privately donated materials that we have acquired.

This will vary depending on the branch.

Usually, we can – as long as it follows the guidelines of the collection policy. Per director’s discretion.

At the discretion of the director.

No. Unfortunately, we do not.