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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.

Library History Through Newspaper Clippings

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, January 23, 2005

They are yellowed with age, but the newspaper clippings were carefully cut and placed in the 1960s scrapbooks. They illustrate library history of that era and show the development of the library system into its form today.

The earliest clippings date from 1958.  The Library Board had just elected officers for the new year, and they included President Samuel Murray, Vice-President Dr. Mary Scanlan, and Secretary James McHugh. Other Board members were Mrs. Clyde Chalfant, Ruth Welch, and Morris Supowitz. Mr. Supowitz was just appointed to the Board in 1958, and would continue to serve until his death in 1991.

The Library was just ordering a new Bookmobile from the Gerstenslager Co. in Wooster at a cost of $ 16,000.  The same vehicle today would be $ 215,000. Alfred Long and Annabelle McCullough staffed the Bookmobile in 1966. Skimmer the Bookworm was the library mascot, and the author of the weekly article in the newspaper, called "Library Happenings by Skimmer."

An article about the library in the 1960s highlighted some of the staff, including Margaret Moffat and Mrs. Fisher in the Cataloging Department, and Ernie Lewis in Audio-visual. In those days, Audio-visual meant 16mm films, and long-playing records arranged on the pegboard wall. Now audio-visual would mean videocassettes, DVDs, books on tape and CD, CDs, and e-audio books.

On its 65th anniversary, the library had a circulation of 103,000 items per year.  Today, we exceed 850,000 items checked out each year. There were 12,066 library cardholders in the county in 1964; today we exceed 40,000 cardholders with 20 percent less population.

One of the new services of 1965 was the "Docustat" machine, which made copies of pages from magazines and books "in only 30 seconds." Today, photocopy machines can make copies in less than three seconds.  Magazine articles are printed from online databases at home or at the library.

A new wing had been added to the Main Library in 1963, adding 1,200 sq ft to the Carnegie Building. A new colonial-style sign marked the library from the front yard the same year, and would remain for another 35 years.

The library director at the time was David W. Griffith.  He was a native of Johnstown, PA and arrived to work for the library in July 1950. In 1952, he was named Director replacing Frances Jones. 

I met Mr. Griffith in my early days of librarianship, when he was the Director of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, after leaving Steubenville. He was cordial, and willing to discuss the issues of the day with an up-and-coming librarian.  
Mr. Griffith departed in 1964, and was replaced by Martin S. Howard. Mr. Howard had worked at the Library Service Center in Barnesville, and was a native of Massachusetts.

I noticed that the library had changed, yet remains the same.  The tools that we use to provide library service are different, supplemented by a new realm of technology.

A 1965 bookmark for National Library Week could be used 40 years later.  Its motto is, "Open your future --- Read."