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History of the Kesler Circulating Library

John Louis Kesler
John Louis Kelser

The Kesler Circulating Library was established in 1936 by John Louis Kesler, Professor of Religious Education and Librarian at the School of Religion, Vanderbilt University (1919-1936). Dr. Kesler (1861-1955; photo to the right) led a movement to establish a circulating library for rural ministers in the South and obtained two grants from the Carnegie Foundation for this purpose. In 1945 Dr. Kesler gave an endowment of $50,000 to the School for the circulating library. The sum was matched by Vanderbilt University and the service was named in Kesler's honor.

The Kesler service was an outgrowth of Rural Church School which had been founded in 1927 under the auspices of the School of Religion, Vanderbilt University. Because many of the participants did not have access to a lending library, they requested that a through-the-mail lending library be started and even went so far as to try to raise money out of their own pockets. The service was named The John Louis Kesler Library for Rural Ministers in 1936. The Library filled a great need for the rural clergy of the South.