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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.

Toronto Branch Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Toronto Branch Library is the oldest of the branch libraries of our library system, officially opening in 1936.  Documentation shows it had opened as early as 1931 in the city building.


When the State Library of Ohio assigned countywide library service to the Carnegie Library of Steubenville, the Toronto Branch Library was named as its first branch.


The Toronto Library opened in its long-standing location at 317 Main Street in the 1930s and remained there until the “new” building was opened in 1990.


The Main Street location was in the street level of the former Opera House, using the corner room and neighboring room as library space.


Like Brilliant, this library was also automated in 1988 and books were barcoded into the database and circulation switched over to barcodes and computers.


About the same time, it was felt and supported by local residents that the Toronto Library needed to relocate to a new facility.


In those days, funds were competitively awarded within the LSCA federal program for libraries, so work moved forward to complete an application and find a location for a new library.


The City of Toronto offered the site of the former Roosevelt School on Daniels, Grant, and Loretta Streets, and a lot of paperwork was submitted to Columbus and the State Library of Ohio where the federal decisions were made.


In fiscal year 1989, four library projects were funded in Ohio, with the Toronto Project being the last in line for the available funding.  It was approved, but before a celebration took place, one of the “nonfunded library projects” in western Ohio appealed the decision.


Six weeks later, following a hearing in Columbus, the Toronto Branch Library retained its status and was funded for construction by a mere 1 vote of the committee.


Construction was underway, and it proved to be one of the most interesting of our building projects since all of the debris from the former Roosevelt School had to be removed and hauled away.


It seemed like an archaeological dig as bits and pieces of the old school appeared.  I saved four “Toronto bricks” which were placed in the walls of the entryway as a bit of history.  Many more bricks were recycled into the Toronto area.


We filled two cisterns on the site, and I stood and tossed bricks into an 80 ft. deep well in the school basement to settle a contractor argument and satisfy the State of Ohio Building Inspection.


As you enter the Toronto Library today, take note of the bricks in the entryway, but don’t jump up and down on that part of the floor as that well I filled is under 8 ft. of controlled fill, and is sealed up with all those broken bricks and concrete.


The new building opened in 1990 and usage immediately doubled with available parking and a beautiful new building.


The Toronto Library serves a large area of the northern part of Jefferson County, with 1/3 of the users from outside the Toronto city limits.


The library is quite noticeable from SR 7 on the hillside with its new “copper penny” metal roof reflecting in the sun.  The building has served as a pattern for other new libraries, with the Caldwell Public Library and the Morgan County Library both using patterns from Toronto.


So, is it one of the ducklings, or a jewel on the necklace, or both?