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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 Mentors

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, September 19, 2010

In the library profession, the sharing of information is a part of life.  Librarians love to share with each other the successes and failures of their work in libraries.


In my first professional position in the library community, my first day was spent taking phone calls from neighboring librarians, welcoming me to the library world.


June 1, 1983 was my first day on-the-job here, and I was contacted by librarians from Weirton, Martins Ferry, and Cadiz.  I received a welcoming letter from the Director of the Barnesville Library, introducing me to the area cooperative of libraries.


For three decades, new librarians in Ohio would receive a letter from A. Chapman Parsons, the Executive Director of the Ohio Library Association introducing them to the state association and all of the benefits of membership.


Shortly after the letter, you would get a phone call from “Chap” asking if he could help in any way in your transition to the profession of librarianship.


Over my 35 years, I have gotten to know countless librarians around Ohio and the nation, and I would be hard pressed to find a career more exciting with more people wanting to share information.


As our library system moved towards the campaign to approve an operating levy, I talked with many librarians whose library had already done a levy campaign.


What I found was a consistent comment that as the levy campaign moved forward, the library would get busier and busier.


A levy campaign is the most concentrated effort at promotion that most public libraries will ever do.


The result is that as the library promotes itself in a levy campaign, the library gets busier than ever at a time when the library financially struggles to handle increasing usage.


That has certainly been our case.  I have had to order more new library cards to handle the demand for more library customers.


More people are donating brand new books to help the library’s collections; more people are using the library at the same time that we reduced hours.


The levy campaign ordered 1,000 yard signs to promote the levy, only to find that we ran out of signs before we ran out of demand.


I was also told that people will want to share their library stories, and they have!  It seems that everyone has a great library story that has impacted their life, and I love to hear each and every one.


My library friends have been correct so far, in all of their observations about library levies.


Let me conclude with a story that “Chap” shared with me not long before his death.


In 1948, he and his friend Dave Griffith had graduated from library school and were looking for jobs at the same time.


Both were interviewed by the Martins Ferry Public Library, and unknown to each other, both were interviewed the following day here at our Library.


Following that interview, both were asked to stay and jointly talk to the Board again.


It turned out that both Library Boards liked both candidates, so they were asked to choose who wanted which library.


Chap Parsons went to Martins Ferry, and Dave Griffith accepted the Steubenville position.  We have a 1952 photo taken at our library with both Parsons and Griffith attending an Open House to show off the library’s renovation.


Parsons went on to the Gallipolis Library, as well as the Rodman Public Library in Alliance before opening the first office of the Ohio Library Association in Columbus in 1964.


Griffith remained here until 1965, moving on to the Youngstown Library for a dozen years, retiring to Florida.


Chap told me that Dave always said that he got the better end of the deal, as Steubenville paid $ 300 more per year than Martins Ferry.


Mentoring librarians are nothing new, except now we do it with e-mail and cell phones.