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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.

The Schiappa Branch Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, June 7, 2015

When I was hired as Library Director in 1983, the Library Board assigned me two specific tasks in addition to the expected duties as chief administrator of the library system.


They wanted me to monitor and facilitate the transition of library funding that had been approved by the State of Ohio, and they wanted me to “do something” about a “West End Library.”


I knew all about the first item, but knew nothing about the second item.  I was assured that there was a large file in the office about the second item.


In 1983, the State Legislature and Governor had developed and approved legislation to end the intangibles tax for libraries and replace it with the State Income Tax effective Jan. 1, 1986.  Any librarian in Ohio knew all about it, and what needed to happen at the local level to “make it so.”


So, I worked on that project, set forth a calendar of times and events relating to that, and would move the process through to the correct end.


Then I went to the file cabinet and retrieved the “West End Library” file, with had subsets of “Ross Park Library, Hilltop Library, Wintersville Library, Statistics.”


The earliest information dated back to 1964, which caused me to realize that this wasn’t something brand new, and maybe I had agreed to something that was impossible to do.


Previous Directors and earlier Boards had looked at site after site along Sunset Blvd., rental properties and buildings available for purchase, but something was always lacking or not available every time.


A Wintersville Library had existed from 1969-1971, a library was proposed for Ross Park, and the Hilltop Library had moved three times.


Statistics and studies filled the files, but nothing had come to reality.  One interesting study talked about towns and cities along the Ohio River, and how they develop due west or due east, depending on which side of the river the community is situated.


The result is that the downtown area is not the “center spoke of the wheel” and development has extended in just one direction.


For two years, I scouted sites here and there, and with the Board’s work, the library system was offered a 4 acre site on Mall Drive by John and Huberta Siciliano for the Schiappa Branch Library.


Since you know the end of the story, allow me to fill in some of the pieces of the story.


When the building was under construction from 1985-87, it seemed like everyone was concerned about the stability of the structure due to strip mine subsidence.


Even today, I can tell you that the Schiappa Branch Library is sitting on 114 concrete caissons drilled to solid rock.  In the front of the building, they are up to 14 ft. deep, but the rear of the building is only 3 ft. off solid rock.


Some of the parking lot light poles bases are not deep, as rock is found at a shallow depth.  The bottom of the water retention basin is on solid rock, and jackhammers were used to make needed cuts.


The building opened on Groundhog Day 1987, and usage has increased every year since.  It is the technical hub of the library system where all data and computer transactions go to the State Telecommunications Center in Columbus.


The Schiappa building is the location of the system’s Local History and Genealogy Department, formed from collection of about 200 items in 1983 that has grown to over 6,000 items today and 80,000 pages of digitized documents.


I think that the duckling and jewel of the necklace question is really an incorrect assumption.  All of our building locations, linked by technology and operated by a skilled staff are simple part of a larger picture that includes over 90 library systems in Ohio.


That’s the number of libraries linked together to make over 200 library locations to serve the public.


Grab your library card and enter one of our doors!