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Serving Jefferson County, Ohio Since 1899
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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.

Library Questions

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, August 31, 2014


Last week’s article about the library provoked interest and questions from the public, as well as library staff.


The foundation and structure of our library system tend to be a quiet operation, not invoking a lot of curiosity.  Over the years, I have been asked numerous times if the “library operates on the overdue fines we collect?”


Or, do we still receive monies from the Carnegie Foundation?


The answer to both questions is “no.”  Collection of overdue fines and payments for lost books go into the library budget and cover the costs of collection of overdue materials and ruined books.  We annually collect about $ 30,000 which is less than one percent of the total budget.


And, our last check from Andrew Carnegie was shortly after the Main Library building opened in 1902.


Various library efforts took place in our area as far back as 1815 when a subscription library opened in the back of a Drug Store.  A library association was formed in the 1830s and operated for about 20 years.  The Steubenville High School Library was open to the public in the 19th Century, as well as a public library in the City Hall in the 1880s.


These efforts at a public library all “came and went” with the tide of society until 1899 when the retiring Superintendent of the Steubenville Female Seminary wrote to Andrew Carnegie and inquired if funds would be available to establish a “public library for the citizens of Steubenville?”


The answer was “yes” but only if a library structure were developed with funding for operations, as well as a building lot to be provided by the local government.


The 1869 Ohio Law called the Municipal Library Act was used to establish a “Public Library” which was a Department of the City of Steubenville, and formed on Oct. 1, 1899 to receive Bonds to purchase property at 4th and Slack Streets from the Joseph Sarratt Heirs, and to receive funds from Andrew Carnegie to construct the building.


In the 1930s, Ohio Library Law was rewritten to develop public library services that included all of Ohio, and the State Library of Ohio was given authority to allocate non-served areas.


Effective Jan. 1, 1936, the Carnegie Library of Steubenville was named the County Extension Library for Jefferson County.


At the same time, all Ohio public libraries were removed from the various local governments that had been funding them, and were instead funded by a dedicated fund of intangibles taxes.


This continued until 1985 when the intangibles tax was repealed, and library funding was moved to a dedicated portion of the state income tax.


The fund has since been renamed the “Public Library Fund” and is now a dedicated percentage of the General Revenues of the State of Ohio.


Recently, we have joined over 300 libraries that have gone together to manage solutions through the use of technology to incorporate discounted purchased of library supplies and materials.


The organization is called OHIONET.  It has been around for over 30 years, but recently has been selling its services to academic, public, school, and special libraries in Ohio, W.Va. and Pa.


Public libraries have long found that shared cooperation always brings lower prices for product services, as shown by our participation in a shared computer network since 1988.


What is new is really old, as shown by an idea from the 1920s.  The librarian from Steubenville had met the librarian from Newark, Ohio at a statewide meeting and in conversation they found that their respective library users complained that they had read all their mystery books.


In what could be considered an early effort at Interlibrary Loans, both libraries boxed up their mysteries and sent them on the Pennsylvania Railroad to each other.


The titles were somewhat different so each library now had a different collection of mysteries to read.  There was some confusion as to why books that said “Newark Public Library – Licking County Service” were on the shelves on S. 4th Street and vice versa.