PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
A century ago, there were three ways of accessing the library.
First, and most likely, was climbing the steps of the Carnegie Building, entering the massive oak doors, and walking up to the desk where the librarian stood, ready to serve.
Secondly, you could use the telephone and call the library, but the length of the call was restricted by the library due to cost. In those days, it was the length of the call that determined the cost, and telephones were still not common in homes.
Finally, you could write a letter, or more likely a post card and the library would answer your inquiry.
Today, you can access any of our seven buildings and bookmobile physically and there is a human being to answer your question.
You can call the library via one of the 20 telephone lines that access our library system, and a human being will talk to you.
And yes, you can still write a letter or post card, although that method is declining even with out-of-town people.
The 21st century has brought new methods of communication and contact between people and their public library.
Our web page at www.steubenvillelibrary.org has been around for several years, but has expanded to a variety of contact points for the library system.
Since 1993, the library’s catalog has been online and you can do your searching from home or office before physically coming to a library building.
In addition, the collections of 75 libraries across Ohio are now on our system, and it is seamless to explore over 6 million items that can be sent to your local library.
Databases of all sorts are on the web page from local history to journal articles, accessible with your library card.
E-books can be downloaded from the web page, and placed on your personal device for use up to 3 weeks, and then automatically return the e-book to the library.
The Contact section allows you to e-mail various departments of the library, including me, with questions and comments.
The link to our Local History and Genealogy Department yields daily contacts from around the world for local information, and our online PayPal account allows people to pay for copies online, allowing information to be sent the same day.
You can do an online chat with someone in our Reference and Information Department, and there is the statewide homework help that is 24/7.
We have been using Facebook for about a year to further enhance our ability to communicate with the public.
Our Facebook account is linked to the web page, and automatically feeds information onto our Twitter account
Facebook provides the library with the ability to communicate and advertise our services and programs, and then receive questions and comments.
If you subscribe to Facebook and become a “friend” of the library, you will receive updates automatically as they are posted.
If you are a Twitter person, then the same information forwards to that account.
If I could talk to Miss Neidengaard, a librarian in 1910, and told her that we had 448 friends on our Facebook, and we tweeted on our Twitter, and e-mailed around the world, wonder what she would think?
My guess is that she would understand! In 1910, the library was struggling on how to manage the telephone in the library, and what the library could provide with the phone.
They worried that information sent on the cheaper post card could be read by anyone, and it was better to use a sealed envelope.
What is new is old, and what is old is new, and the library goes on with new capabilities and tools to serve the public.