PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
In 1964, the Library Board began reviewing library service in the larger Steubenville area to determine a plan for an additional library.
By that time, the city had expanded to the west, and suburban development was taking place around the area.
Sites and buildings were reviewed from Pleasant Heights to the western corporation line.
A branch library opened in Wintersville in 1968, replacing an earlier small library in a village owned building.
Many potential buildings for leasing were explored, and sites for construction were evaluated, but the limited funds available were never able to match what was available.
The growth of the 1950s and 1960s was replaced by population decline beginning with the 1970 census, prompting the project to be shelved for a time.
When I arrived in 1983, I was told that a “West End Library” was a critical need and was to be first on my plate of things to do.
At the same time, some federal library construction funds became available and the State Library of Ohio expressed interest in looking at grant applications from our area.
But first, they wanted a Consultant to look at the region and help us plan for long range development of library services.
We hired Donald C. Potter from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to perform the study that would guide library services into the future.
His first comment was the obvious, that Steubenville is a river town which combined with the geography north and south of the city, means that expansion was only taking place to the west.
That makes the downtown area of the city as not being “the hub of the wheel” of development, in the same was as other river towns, as well as Cleveland; which only has “half a hub” due to Lake Erie.
Mr. Potter reviewed the developed area in relation to the movement of people, and where a library could be located to best serve the public.
The commercial development of the “West End” was cited by Mr. Potter as a reason for locating a library in that area, because people movement from both Steubenville and Wintersville is at the optimum in that area.
We also looked at the coordination of the Main Library building with a new library in the “West End.”
The “West End” building would be the home of most of the “public services” and the Main Library building would retain administrative offices, technical services, and bookmobile operations as the best use of space.
Other issues that were considered included the lack of accessibility of the Main Library, and the need for the new facility to be completely accessible.
The consultant also considered the other five branches located around the county, and felt that they all served unique populations and needed to be retained.
He noted that the southern end of Jefferson County is commercially connected to both the Steubenville consumer market, as well as Wheeling-St. Clairsville.
This information related to the development of a computer system for libraries in the area so that public libraries in Harrison, Belmont, and Jefferson County are connected.
In the 1980s that was in the early development stages, and of course, that has now been completed and today includes a total of 73 library systems across Ohio.
You know the end of this story, with the construction and opening of the Schiappa Branch Library in 1987, but next week the rest of that story.