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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.

Our Library System

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, August 24, 2014


Of Ohio’s 251 public library districts, the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County ranks as 35th in size; based on various statistics of operation.


In southeastern Ohio, we rank in the same size category with county-wide library systems in Zanesville, Portsmouth, Marietta, and New Philadelphia.


All five public library systems in that size category have multiple branches, and two of us still operate Bookmobile service.


All five public library systems have a one mill operating levy to supplement the Public Library Fund allocations of the State of Ohio, which was reduced in 2009 by 31 percent.


Public library operations in Ohio differ from neighboring states for a variety of reasons.


The legal structure and formation of Ohio’s public libraries goes back to 1805 when the Dayton Library was chartered for public funding and operation.


Throughout the 19th Century, the Ohio General Assembly enacted laws relating to public libraries with our library system chartered October 1, 1899 under laws enacted thirty years earlier.


In 1906, the State Library of Ohio’s office of library development was established to ensure that all of the citizens of Ohio had access to a public library.


Networks of libraries, and systems of libraries within the counties were established into the early 20th Century until the landmark date of Sept. 4, 1947 was established as the end of the formation of any new public library districts.


Since that time, any new library must be a branch of an existing system.


Recently, the State Library of Ohio was given the task of untangling existing library districts within Ohio.  To my knowledge, most districts have now been clarified with Belmont, Jefferson, and Harrison Counties being one of the first groups through the process.


The end result of two centuries of planning and development is that Ohio has the busiest public libraries in the nation, providing networked services to all of Ohio’s citizens.


In our case, our library system is part of a 90 library automated system with more than 7 million items available for borrowing and access to an eBook system of more than 160,000 online books for downloading.

The 251 public library districts operate more than 700 outlets across the State of Ohio providing services through the Ohio Public Library Information Network which is nearly 20 years old.


Ohio’s citizens have access to more collaborative online databases than any state in the nation.


In an era when government is encouraging shared resources and collaborative efforts between and among agencies, all you have to do is look at Ohio’s public libraries to see how it can work.


In addition, there are the little pieces of cooperation that exist in the Ohio library community.  For instance, when we were processing donated books for our library system, the shared network identified that our friends at the Puskarich Library in Cadiz didn’t own a particular title, while our library system had copies at each location.


I attached a note to the book, and put it in the daily delivery service “to PPL” and sent it where it could be better utilized.


On a larger scale, hardly a day goes by that the OPLIN List serve doesn’t have someone asking if another library could answer a question, or if someone knows the name of the book with the main character whose name is ?


It is exciting to tell a library user that the answer to their inquiry came from the public library in Defiance, or Tiffin, or Jackson; maybe Reference Services of the Cleveland Public Library.


I remember the note I received from a woman in Edgerton, Ohio near the Indiana border surprised that her book request brought the title from our Dillonvale Branch, in the same town she was born many years ago!


So when you use your public library in Ohio, you have accessed the whole state’s resources.