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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.

Big Library, Small Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 8, 2015

A friend of mine said that he was passing through Dillonvale recently and noticed the Library, and stopped and went into the building to see what it looked like.


I had told him that our Library System has seven locations and Bookmobile service, and he should stop and see some of the branch locations of our system.


He said that he was amazed how nice the Dillonvale Branch Library looked, both inside and out.


The interior is bright and colorful with books, DVDs, CDs, computers splashed around the small building.  He was taken by the informal reading area with the large sofa ready for someone to curl up with a book.


He was surprised at the number of people who came and went while he was there.  The daily delivery service has just unloaded the items arriving from other libraries that had been requested by someone using the Dillonvale Library.


I told him that about 7 miles to the west is the Adena Branch Library, another of our locations.  It, too, is an attractive facility in a much older building that locals still call the “Honeymoon Hotel” from the days when young miners began their life in the hotel rooms on the 2nd floor.


Last year we paved the parking areas at Adena, and improved the ADA access to the building.


The same direction east from Dillonvale is the Tiltonsville Branch Library which serves the Yorkville-Tiltonsville-Rayland area of the county.  It is marking the 15th year that it has occupied the former appliance store.


The same bright and colorful interior greets library users at Tiltonsville, complete with computers and color copiers like the other locations.


I told him not to forget the Brilliant Branch Library north along the Ohio River.  It has occupied its locations since the 1960s when Wells Township constructed a new building for township services, and the library located there.


All four of these locations are about the same size of 2,500 sq. ft. each, and they could be considered the “small branches” compared to Toronto, Schiappa, and the Main Library; but that is really no longer a true statement.


All seven of our library locations around Jefferson County are connected to a network of libraries across Ohio that now contains 91 Library Systems with 221 Library locations in 46 different Ohio counties.


I am proud to say that the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County was one of the first four library systems to join the SEO Library Center in 1988 to allow the public to search one database of library materials and electronically request items to be shipped directly to your own local library.


Laundry tubs on wheels roll around our library daily has the delivery truck arrives from the Cleveland Hub where library items are sorted beginning as early as 4 am weekdays.


That database contains more than 7 million items scattered across the system from Defiance Public Library to our Dillonvale Branch Library.


So, none of our four small branches are small anymore, there are 7 million items crammed into those buildings!


Now those same facilities have 200,000 eBooks floating around the Cloud ready to be downloaded into your Tablet to read and enjoy.


Those same facilities have 42 eMagazine subscriptions online to load into your Tablet to browse, and then fade away not cluttering the lamp stands in your home.


And that one library card that you possess can link you to numerous online databases containing back files of magazine articles, journals and research of all kinds, and literally millions of pages of information.


The notion of big libraries and small libraries is fading away with technology.


From the standpoint of size, the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County is considered a “medium-sized public library” in Ohio’s library world, and falls into 35th place in the 251 Public Library Districts in the state.


It is the largest public library system along the Ohio River between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in size, staff, and budget, but I confess to remain amazed by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Main Library in downtown Cincinnati that takes up a whole city block and is now extending over streets to additional facilities.


How will technology change libraries in the years to come?  The physical size of a library won’t make as much difference as they all become access points to information.