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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.

The Schiappa Branch Library is born

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, December 20, 2009

In the early 1980s, we were looking for a location for a “West End Library.”

 

Our Consultant noted that it would be a difficult task to find land, or an existing building along Sunset Blvd. with enough size for access and parking that wouldn’t need a lot of development cost.

 

Numerous locations were examined and dismissed for many reasons.

 

A conversation between Library Board members and John and Huberta Siciliano revealed the possibility of the placement of the library along Mall Drive; leading to the donation of a 4.5 acre tract by the Sicilianos for the future Schiappa Branch Library.

 

Plans, paperwork, applications and various approvals led to the beginning of construction in January 1985.

 

Everyone seemed worried about the former strip mine site, and the integrity of any building constructed there.

 

Actually, that particular location has solid rock only a few feet below the surface, and the use of concrete caissons under the floor system has resulted in a solid building.

 

My vivid memories of site development relate to the storm water run-off issues, as this was the first development in Steubenville under the new regulations.

 

I spend one Saturday measuring every tree on the site in excess of 2 inches in diameter for the calculations needed for the detention basin.

 

I also remember the spring on the site that was piped into a storm water collection basin and into the detention basin, allowing the site to “dry up.”

 

Before that happened, the construction workers had to rescue me from knee-deep muck where I had incorrectly decided to stand to calculate some of the run-off statistics.

 

Work was completed and the Schiappa Library opened on Groundhog Day of 1987.

 

Since the Schiappa Branch has opened, usage has increased each and every year of its existence.

 

As expected, the Main Library usage declined for about 5 years, then reversed and began to grow.

 

Today, the public usage of the whole library system has doubled over a 20 year period, while the area population continues to decline.

 

Half of the population of Jefferson County has an active library card, an increase of 25 percent since 1990.

 

Until last August, the Schiappa Branch was our only location with Sunday hours – now gone as a result of state budget cuts.

 

In 1992, the second phase of the Schiappa Branch was constructed with larger children’s area, and Reference and Local History/Genealogy Department.

 

Today, it amazes me to see how our whole library system operates effectively with the online system that can identify and retrieve materials in our collection located anywhere in the system.

 

In addition, we can located materials in the other 73 library systems online with us; soon to be joined by the Licking County Libraries, Chillicothe and Ross County Libraries, and the Granville Public Library.

 

Things have come a long way from the cumbersome card catalogs, and a system consisting of trays of cards that made it impossible to determine if a book was on-the-shelf or checked out without a long search of thousands of cards.