As a reader, a student, and now as a writer, I have spent my share of days in a library. As a child, I searched for books on horse racing and other interests, the shelves and shelves of tomes on all sorts of subjects my sole source of research in the pre-Internet days. My days of writing research papers from high school to graduate school meant that I spent hours pouring over shelves and through journals, seeking the right sources for whatever argument I was making. Writing this book on Sir Barton meant that I needed to seek THE library in this country that contains 99.9% of what an author like me would need: the Keeneland Library, the single greatest collection of books, photographs, and publications about horse racing in the country.
Located on the grounds of Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, KY, the Library is a beautiful tribute to the history of horse racing. Its soaring ceilings lit by beautiful bowl lights welcome you into this quiet cathedral celebrating everything Thoroughbred. Its walnut cabinets are stately homes to the vast array of sources necessary to tell the stories you seek. Their wide tables and comfy chairs allow you to spread out the books and bound volumes of Daily Racing Form or the Thoroughbred Record. Rare books that might cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to acquire rest on their shelves, available to any member of the public who wishes to peruse them. I spent many hours in the quiet there, seeking the bits of information I would need to tell Sir Barton’s story in full.
The Library does not circulate its holdings; patrons can read while they’re present in the library, but cannot check out any of its items. The staff of professional librarians is happy to answer any question you may have, whether you are looking for something about Man o’ War or asking about 18th-century horsemanship. Its holdings include Charles Cook’s extensive collection of photographs from the early 1900s; every volume of the American Stud Book, dating back to 1896; and extensive collections of the Daily Racing Form, The Blood-Horse, and the Thoroughbred Record. The Library’s collections are so extensive that it would take you years to go through every nook and cranny to find all of the gems housed there.
For me, my favorite part of my time there was simply being there. Chatting with the librarians. Ticking needed items off my list. Combing through volumes of print sources that were a century old, looking for Sir Barton’s name. The Library is a special place for anyone who loves racing and the horses that have touched us, years of Kentucky Derbies and Triple Crowns and the personalities that have made those experiences memorable. If you’re ever in Lexington, visit the Keeneland Library. Spend an hour or two in quiet tribute to the Thoroughbred and find that photograph or article that encapsulates a moment you treasure. (Interested? You can search their online catalog as well.)
The Keeneland Library Lecture Series
The Keeneland Library renewed its lecture series in October with a visit from Milt Toby, author of Taking Shergar, the first book published in the University Press of Kentucky’s Horses in History imprint. In May, I will be appearing at the Library in support of Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown, the second book in the Horses in History imprint. On May 14th at 6:30 pm, please join me and the staff of the Library for a special presentation on Sir Barton. Afterward, the Library will host a reception and a book signing, with a limited number of books available to purchase. The event is free and open to the public. I hope you will join me for this special evening!