Imagination Library in Harlan

Published 2:00 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2022

All Harlan County children 5 and under now have access to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, courtesy of the Harlan Rotary Club.

Rotary Club Co-Chairperson Connie Fields explained how the book distribution program started by Parton came to be in Harlan.
Fields said her and her husband, Harlan ARH Hospital CEO Donnie Fields, had been involved in the Rotary Club in Letcher County before coming to Harlan.

“They were instrumental in helping us with the paperwork,” Fields said. “We saw what an awesome job they had done. We lived in Hazard after Whitesburg before coming to Harlan, and we helped get the Imagination Library started there with the Rotary Club.”

According to Fields, getting the Imagination Library up and running in Harlan took a little longer due to COVID-19 issues, but once in operation the program became popular right off the bat.

“We started in January as officially a part of the Imagination Library,” Fields said. “In January, we had 168 people sign up.”
The Collaborative Center for Literacy Development has previously made the program available in parts of Harlan County, Fields said.
“They were only doing specific zip codes,” Fields said. “Most groups start with specific zip codes, and as they get funding through fundraisers and sponsorships they add zip codes.”

Fields said the Rotary Club took over for the CCLD.

“We’re able to take the money they already had available,” Fields said. “We just jumped right in.”

Fields said any child within the bounds of Harlan County from birth to 5 years old is eligible to receive a book. The Imagination Library provides one book per month.

“The first book is always The Little Engine that Could,” Fields said.

One of the benefits of the program is instilling a love of reading in the participants, Fields said.

“It gives kids a head start having a book in front of them,” Fields said. “

Fields explained the process for signing children up to take part in the Imagination Library.

“You go to, that we have shared on our Facebook page,” Fields explained.

Fields mentioned they have also acquired an advertising tool that is hard to miss.

“We’ve purchased a life-sized Dolly,” Fields said. “The first month it will be at MCHC here in Harlan. It’s in the entrance as you come in…we’re going to rotate it. This month it’s in Harlan, next month it will be at the Cumberland MCHC. When kids are in there for appointments or for whatever reason, they can have their picture taken with Dolly!”

Fields said the Rotary Club welcomes pictures from children involved in the program on the Harlan Rotary Club Facebook page.

“Their parents can take the picture and go ahead and post it on our Facebook page,” Fields said. “When they get their first book, we ask them to please post it on our Facebook page so we can see your child getting their first book.”