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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Planning a West End Branch Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, January 28, 2007

Last summer, Linda Stuller, the Branch Manager of our Schiappa Branch, mentioned to me that the 20th anniversary of that location would be taking place in 2007.

 

My initial reaction was that she had miscounted the years, until I did the math and found that she was correct.

 

It has been 20 years since our Schiappa Branch opened its doors!

 

And it was 25 years before those doors opened that the idea had its seeds.

 

The library system had established "neighborhood branches" on N. 7th Street, and on the Hilltop as Steubenville grew and expanded.

 

By the 1950s, subdivisions of new homes were developing and filling the space between Steubenville and Wintersville.

 

How would the library system address the need for a facility to serve this new growth?

 

The first documented review took place in 1964 in conjunction with the construction of the Hollywood Plaza.  Various buildings in the area were discussed as a location for a branch library.

 

Between that time and 1980, a whole list of locations and buildings had been considered for a branch library.

 

When I was hired as Director of the library system in 1983, the Board handed me several goals, foremost being the establishment of a "West End Library."

 

I reviewed all the documentation relating to work that had been done before.

 

Site after site had been reviewed and rejected for a variety of reasons.

 

Finding developable land with the size needed, or an existing building to renovate was a difficult task.

 

In the early 1980s, some federal Library construction monies were available, but required an independent review before being considered for funding.

 

The Library Board hired Donald C. Potter, Assistant Director of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, to review library services in the Steubenville area.

He was an interesting man; quiet and resourceful, came to town with a lot of statistics and research already done.

 

We drove around the area, matching sites with maps and numbers, when he made the obvious and revealing comment, "Steubenville is a river city, and like other Ohio River towns has spread in one direction, leaving the downtown no longer in the center."

 

From that comment came the realization that library service would need to be retained at the downtown Carnegie building, and expanded to a new large facility in the western edge of the city.

 

He stated that libraries should be "where people go" in commercial settings, near places that are destinations for the public.

 

That statement goes against the stereotype of a library near a school, or park, or in the area of other government buildings.

 

Actually, our Main Library is located against that stereotype, in 1900 the Library Board chose a site blocks from the Court House and City Hall, away from parks and public schools.

 

The Library Board had established a Building Fund in 1964 to begin saving for the project, and that provided the needed matching funds for federal dollars.

 

Now to put together the paperwork, and find a location.

 

That is next week's story!