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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 Ohio Historical Marker - Carnegie Library

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

Excitement is building for the dedication of the Ohio Historical Marker that will grace the front yard of the Main Library.


Tuesday at 11:00 am is the unveiling, and everyone is welcome to attend.


An Open House will follow, with displays about library history to be featured, and will remain in place for all to enjoy for the week.


The historical marker is a great way to acknowledge Andrew Carnegie and his contribution to our community, as well as the world.


When I arrived on the scene some 30 years ago, I remember speaking to several groups about the library and each time someone asked, “Why isn’t the library named after Carnegie anymore?”


I decided that I had better find out the answer to that question, and be able to answer it at my next speaking engagement.


In my own experience, I grew up using a 1918 era public library which had also been funded by Carnegie, but that fact was not highlighted.


I later directed a public library that had constructed a huge addition to the Carnegie building in 1961, completely covering the 1912 building to the point it wasn’t even visible.


The HVAC systems were in the older building, as well as storage, but the only remaining exterior walls were covered with white stucco.


A 1960 proposal for the Steubenville Carnegie Building was to remove the front yard terraces and construct a new library, and wrap it around the Carnegie, which would be storage.


To answer my own question, the Main Library building started life as the Carnegie Library of Steubenville in 1902.  Andrew Carnegie made no demands that his name appear on the libraries he donated, and evidence is that he really preferred that they not have his name.


The Carnegie name was later applied to the branch libraries, and by the 1950s the name had become a hindrance to finding operating funds for the library.  The assumption was that the Andrew Carnegie Foundation was still funding the library.


Effective January 1, 1962, the system name changed to Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.


The same situation was true nationwide, and many libraries removed his name.  Of Ohio’s 105 public libraries funded by Carnegie, only East Liverpool and Washington Court House use his name in their legal designation.


Ten of Ohio’s Carnegie libraries have been demolished; only about half remain in use as public libraries.  Other buildings have been reused for other purposes, and a handful sits empty likely to collapse on their own or lose the battle to remain.


Sorry to say that Andrew Carnegie has been lost to time and history, and a survey done a decade ago found that people aren’t sure of the difference between Andrew and Dale Carnegie.


This historical marker provides a blend between the current usage of the building, and the documentation of the history of the building and the man.


There are only 3 other such markers in Ohio in library yards.  The Main Library of Columbus Metropolitan Library acknowledges their 1906 Carnegie Building and the mansion removed for its construction. 


The 1916 Paulding Library is acknowledged for being the first “county” library in Ohio funded by Carnegie.  The Chillicothe-Ross County Public Library’s 1907 building has a marker honoring Librarian Burton Stevenson who served for 58 years and is the author of his “Book of Quotations.”


And so, now we will join this prestigious group of Carnegie libraries in Ohio with an historic marker; and we will be designated as one of the first funded in Ohio, and our marker will give credit to the man who made that possible.