For racing fans, journalists, writers, college professors, historians, Keeneland employees and countless others seeking information about Keeneland and the Thoroughbred industry, one sure bet has been the Keeneland Library's Head Librarian, Cathy Schenck. Today, Cathy is retiring after 38 years at Keeneland.
Cathy has been an invaluable resource for people no matter the complexity or purpose of their questions. Perhaps they were researching material for an article or book; exploring the career of a relative involved in the industry; or seeking information about their favorite Thoroughbred—famous or otherwise. Cathy knew where to look for material, and the speed of her responses to queries was nothing short of amazing. Among those who benefited from her expertise is Laura Hillenbrand, author of the best-selling Seabscuit: An American Legend.
From Paducah, Kentucky, Cathy has a bachelor's degree from Western Kentucky University and a master's degree in library science from the University of Kentucky. Soon after she graduated from UK, she began working at the Keeneland Library, founded in 1939, when it occupied part of the second floor of Keeneland's Clubhouse, directly above what is today the South Grandstand Entrance.
For a few months, she worked with Amelia King Buckley, who was about to retire after being involved with the Library since the 1950s. Mrs. Buckley had meticulously indexed the Library's collections and set the standard for excellence and customer service that Cathy embraced.
Following Mrs. Buckley's retirement, Doris Waren became the second Head Librarian. After she retired, Cathy succeeded her in September 1994.
Meanwhile, the Keeneland Library's collections were expanding, and the Library was outgrowing its space. In July 2002, Cathy was among the Keeneland officials who cut the ceremonial ribbon to open the Keeneland Library's new home: a 10,000 square-foot building that today houses nearly 30,000 books, approximately 1 million photographic negatives, and thousands of newspaper and magazine articles about all aspects of the equine industry while welcoming thousands of visitors each year.
The Keeneland Library received the 2002 Special Eclipse Award for its contributions to the Thoroughbred industry.
Cathy's expertise also extended to Keeneland's world-famous Thoroughbred sales. She was instrumental in the development of the Repository, a library of sorts of digital X-rays of sales horses available for review by veterinarians representing potential buyers. The Repository debuted in 1996, and she served as its Supervisor.
The number of people Cathy helped in person, over the phone, via email, by mail—you name it—would be next to impossible to quantify. In 2015, she was recognized for her unique contributions when the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters presented her with the Joe Palmer Award for Meritorious Service to Racing.
At the time, she said she always enjoyed talking to people about the projects they're working on and what information they seek, adding, "The challenge of figuring out where answers to their questions lie is one of my favorite roles at the Keeneland Library."