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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 - 25 years later

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 26, 2012

This month marks the 25th anniversary of our Schiappa Branch Library.  The facility opened to the public on Groundhog Day, 1987.


I remember working there the entire first week of operations, welcoming people and watching for problems that needed to be solved quickly.


The shelves were sparsely filled with books; we had gotten books on long-term loan from the State Library of Ohio trying to fill the needs of opening day crowds.


And so begins the story of our library branch that today accounts for over 60 percent of the total usage of our library system.


The usage of our library system is not based on any one location, as libraries today operate as a collaborative effort.


When you download an eBook, it is done from a database of 80 libraries using your local library card account.  Local History materials are downloaded from our database of 80,000 pages that belongs to all of the libraries, not just one.


Our individual branch libraries provide a storage location for library materials, and it is not uncommon for the book you check out to actually “belong” to another location.


The computer system does “load management” of the needs expressed for particular items, and moves library materials based on that need and request.


That is a long way for the opening day at the Schiappa Branch when we were still using card trays and the card catalog to manually handle books and their checkout.


Our library system in 2012 is twice as busy as it was when Schiappa opened in 1987; twice as many library card accounts and twice as many items checked out (and downloaded.)


The Internet didn’t exist in 1987; now all of our locations are connected online and on the verge of being upgraded to even higher speeds.


My memory of the construction of the Schiappa Branch goes back to standing in the former strip mined site, having the workers retrieve me and my boots from being stuck in the mud.


Everyone worried about the foundation of concrete piers, and whether they could carry the building load without heaving and cracking the floor.


165 piers and 25 years later, and everything worked out for the best, as the Schiappa Branch and six other buildings and bookmobile join with the Internet and 65 human staffers to provide library service to the citizens of Jefferson County.


Everything came together at the right time for the Schiappa Branch.  John and Huberta Siciliano donated the site, the Library Board had been planning and saving for years, the Library Services and Construction Act granted construction monies, and the State of Ohio had developed a new source of operational funding for libraries.


LSCA funds also provided funds for the Toronto Branch, and equalized funds also allowed all of our other branches to be improved.


LSCA funds are long-gone, and state operational funding has been cut by more than 30 percent, but the citizens of Jefferson County has continued the investment in their library system with a Library Levy, approved in 2010.


Times have changed in libraries, information formats have been replaced and changed, yet the library system remains as part of our community.