Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County | Home
June 16, 2019 | Branch Locations | Contact Us
Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County
Serving Jefferson County, Ohio Since 1899
Find us on Instagram
Pay Fines/Make a Donation My Account

Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

It Was Predicted that Libraries would go away......

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, October 5, 2014


The demise of libraries has been predicted many times over history.  Libraries have certainly changed with the times, and the information tools that we have at our access have grown and changed with technology and society.


In Ohio, the Belpre Farmers Library of 1796 and the famous Coonskin Library of 1804 were developed to provide a wider selection of books to the early settlers.


Both were early subscription libraries where local settlers desire a collection of books from which they could select reading materials.  Early settlers traveled to the Ohio frontier with precious few books, often carefully wrapped in protective wax paper. 


Once established in Ohio, settlers would “subscribe” to a library by adding funds, or coonskins, to a collective fund that would be used to buy books for all of the subscribers to share.


The initial thought was that once the settlers had more books on the frontier, these libraries would close, but it was quickly determined that people wanted a greater selection of books than a personal library could provide.


In 1805, the Dayton Library was the first library chartered with funds provided by the government.  The trend continued through the first half of the 19th Century with public and school libraries appearing in every corner of the state.


Following the Civil War, it was predicted that libraries would go away with the access to “dime novels” and inexpensive books and pamphlets being produced by a streamlined publishing industry.


Actually, the opposite happened with a library developing in nearly every metropolitan area and small town in Ohio.


State documents were distributed to libraries as a means of sharing government information, and the library program of Andrew Carnegie brought 105 new library buildings to Ohio communities.


At the turn of the 20th Century, it was predicted that libraries would go away with the addition of an “index” to nearly every new nonfiction book, and the development of reference sources that aided the public in finding information.


Actually, the opposite happened as libraries grew and expanded as more people used the resources of books and reference books.


By the 1930s, it was predicted that libraries would go away with the Depression, but actually the opposite happened and people used libraries more than ever as they learned new careers and continued their library habit started in schools.


In the 1950s, it was predicted that libraries would go away as television swept the nation, and it was thought that people would quit reading books with television programs taking their place.


Actually, the opposite happened as TV spawned book series and interest in “reading more about it.”  Libraries expanded to media in addition to the traditional books, and began offering programming to the public.


With the development of computers in the 1970s, it was predicted that libraries would go away as all information would be on those computers.  Actually the opposite happened, and the location of the information allowed libraries to expand their ability to obtain requested information.


And with the Internet of the 1990s, it was predicted that libraries would go away with information now at the fingertips of anyone and everyone.


Actually, the opposite happened as libraries joined the online movement and often have the largest Internet presence.


Libraries still have books, libraries now have eBooks, libraries have online databases, and libraries have filled the gap created by the closure of local, state, and federal offices and are now information-providers for all sorts of information.


Not every scrap of information is in electronic format, and information placed online can go away and disappear by simply turning off the machine.


It has been predicted many times that libraries will go away.