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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.

1932 Library Annual Report

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, March 27, 2011

The 1932 annual report for the library showed that the previous year had been a busy one for the library.


It also called to the attention of readers of the report that the library would be celebrating its 30th anniversary in March.


The Board minutes of that day expressed irritation that the roof leaks that started when the Carnegie Building was only a decade old, continued despite repeated repairs.


The stonework high on the 105 ft. tower continued to flake off and fall onto the lower roof, breaking the clay roof tiles.  Actually, the roof around the base of the tower had already been replaced with roll tar roofing.


The librarian reported that 771 books were added to the collection in 1931, and 595 books were withdrawn as being “worn out” or lost and paid for by the user.


That made a collection of 24,729 books as of the first day of 1932.


The most popular books in the adult collection, according to the librarian, were the fiction collection; and history is the most popular division of nonfiction.


Fairy tales were the most popular books in the juvenile department, followed also by history.


Sixty-five magazine subscriptions exist at the library in 1932, with newspapers from New York City, Pittsburgh, Wheeling, Cleveland, and the local Herald-Star all available for daily review.


Library cards were issued to 6,508 people that year.


In 1932, the library system consisted of the Main Library in downtown Steubenville, and two neighborhood branches, as library service extended only to the city limits.


The winds of change had started to blow in the Ohio Library world, as the next year would see library funding switch from being a department of local governments to library districts, funded by a dedicated tax for libraries.


The State Library of Ohio hired consultants to fan out across the state to encourage libraries to serve areas of counties that formerly had no library access.


Mildred W. Sandoe was our consultant that aided in the process of changing to a countywide library service beginning January 1, 1936.


For some time, the library operated with City Service and County Service, an operation that ended in 1940 with the Carnegie Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.


This 1932 Annual Report was issued by Head Librarian Elinor J. Neidengard, a name that was associated with the library for many years.


She had been hired before the library opened in 1902 as a library assistant, aiding Ellen Summers Wilson, the first librarian.


She continued working for Agnes Elliott and Beatrice Kelly into the 1920s.  At that time, library finances were reduced to the point that no Head Librarian was in the position, so Miss Neidengard was placed in charge.


When I arrived as Director in 1983, a gentleman shared a story about his experience as a “young lad”  using the library in 1930, and how he caught the wrath of Miss Neidengard.


He had checked out the book “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson from the library, and somehow the book was destroyed.  He went to the library to tell them, and was handed to Acting Head Librarian Elinor J. Neidengard.


Following a long lecture on safeguarding library books, and a scolding for the destruction of the book, and asking how he intended to pay the library a $ 1.95 replacement fee; she quietly sat down in the librarian’s chair and asked if he had gotten to read any of the book.


He replied that he had read about half of the book, and was really enjoying it.  She scurried off to a bookshelf, and found another copy of “Treasure Island” so he could finish the story.


He paid the library a dime now and then, and helped sweep the basement rooms to finish paying for the book, and Miss Neidengard always smiled on his return visits to the library.


Elinor J. Neidengard left the library’s employment in May of 1936, but remained a part of the community until her death in 1955.