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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.

Public Libraries - Today

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, October 28, 2012

When most people think of a public library, they picture a place with books that you can check out and take home to read.

 

Many people have memories of their first library visit, often accompanied by stories of using a public library with their parents at an early age.

 

Some people can even describe the smell of books in their library memories, and even the names of the librarians who read stories or guided them towards a favorite book series.

 

Those are all great memories, and ones that have been shared with me over the years, but there is much more to today’s public library than the traditional stories of years-gone-by.

 

In addition to books, libraries have expanded to include DVDs, CDs, and even books that exist only in thin air, and can be downloaded from cyberspace called eBooks.

 

Libraries have passed through the era of 16mm films, 8mm films, long-playing records, videocassettes, and sound cassettes as the media has moved through different information sources.

 

Online databases and digitized sources supplement what is on-the-shelves of a public library, with some available from your home computer.

 

Legal forms, tutoring sites, social media, and online test forms are all part of today’s public library.

 

Our Local History and Genealogy Department fields questions from across the nation (and world) about our area and its people.

 

In recent years, public libraries have been given new tasks and responsibilities for the public.  Voter registration came to Ohio libraries in 1977, and for a short time libraries were even paid for the service.

 

Tax forms made an appearance in public libraries about 1980 as a public service to people trying to locate a specific form, or booklets in general.

 

Today, we provide and distribute cases of local, state, and federal tax forms every year, as well as produce thousands of specific forms for the public.

 

With the advent of the Internet, public libraries are providing computers for public use, as well as wireless connections for people with their own laptop computers.

 

With the Internet, public libraries have become the local connection to countless local, state, and federal agencies whose local offices have closed or been reduced in staffing.  “Go to the library and register online” is the advice provided by various agencies to the public.

 

As part of that service, our library system has about 18 staffers who are Public Notaries, to sign and notarize various forms and paperwork produced by this process.


All of our locations have high-speed color copiers connected to the computer systems, to allow copying, faxing, and scanning services that are commonplace in today’s world.

 

Our staff provide “Reader’s Advisory” services relating to books and authors, but also in locating information online from phone numbers to detailed data to agency information.

 

Homework help to assistance with unknown paperwork to computer instruction is commonplace in today’s public library.

 

Our library system is connected to 90 other library systems across Ohio to allow the public to share in a collection of almost 7 million items, which are in a delivery system arriving at their local library for check out.

 

The laundry carts of materials arrive daily to meet the information needs of our library users.

 

Public libraries have always tried to address the information needs of their public.

 

When our Main Library building opened in 1902, an area in the basement was set aside for Civil War veterans to review government documents relating to that conflict.  The federal government was producing copies of original documents for the veterans to read.

 

By 1920, that era in American history had passed and the area was renovated to provide space for other needs.

 

Computers now occupy the space of the Civil War documents as we move on to new needs and new issues of the day.

 

So, if you aren’t sure if the public library has/does some service, just ask --- you might be surprised.