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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.

Working by Myself

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, August 29, 2010

Everyone wants to know what it was like, working in the library by myself?

 

The week of Aug. 16 was our Cost Saving Week, when each full-time employee (including myself) was not paid to aid in the library’s budget savings.

 

The date for the Cost Saving Week was established a year ago as we had to find methods of reducing our expenditures to address the state budget cut.

 

But, back to what it was like that week; it was quiet.  At the Main Library, there were no sounds of feet on the upstairs floor, no doors opening and closing.

 

Just the telephone ringing off the wall, as by Tuesday I turned off the voice mail as the system couldn’t handle the load of saved messages.

 

I accepted the deliveries, which had been shifted from all 6 branches to the Main Library, so we could continue operations when we reopened on Aug. 23, and moved everything around the county to all of our locations.

 

I had quipped that maybe I would share the Main Library with Ellen Summers Wilson, the librarian from 1901-1904.

 

When I started here in 1983, I noticed the name of Miss Wilson as the first librarian to serve what was then, the Carnegie Library of Steubenville.

 

Further investigation found that she was 29 years old when hired in the fall of 1901, a graduate of the New York State Library School.

 

She had worked for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh as branch manager of two locations before being hired as the first librarian here.

 

The Board hired her to assemble the opening day collection, and ready the new building for the public.

 

Once the library opened in March 1902, her job was busier than ever, forming book clubs, establishing a library lecture series, and accommodating Civil War veterans with documents relating to the war.

 

She seems to be best-known for passing out business cards for the library at the gates to the Mill.

 

I recently found that Miss Wilson was active in the newly-formed Ohio Library Association, and was a speaker at a forum held in Columbus in 1903.

 

What is fascinating to me is her leadership as a librarian in the first years of the 20th Century.  She made the library a place that people could use as an information source.

 

Unfortunately, the life of Ellen Summers Wilson ended in Nov. 1904 at age 32 from tuberculosis.

 

Several years ago, I suggested that perhaps the library ghost that supposedly occupies the Carnegie building was in fact Miss Wilson, watching over the library that she loved.

 

That suggestion was included in “Haunted Ohio IV” as a cute story, and has now moved in the information circles as the reality of buildings that are haunted.

 

So, the week that I worked in the library alone did prove that the Carnegie building does make strange noises when the building is quiet.  I think it is the huge wooden roof trusses expanding and contracting with the changing temperatures, perhaps rubbing against the steel I-beams in the attic.

 

It could also be air movement within some of the abandoned air ducts that brought fresh air down the tower of the building.

 

Or it could have been Miss Wilson distraught at her library being closed for the week, but I wouldn’t want to start any more Internet rumors about this dear old building.