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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.

25 Years of the Toronto Branch Library

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

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Toronto Branch Library’s “new” building.


I still think of it as a “new” building, and it is hard to believe that 25 years have passed that that lovely building opened to the public!


Doing a little math, that means that over 2 million items have been checked out of the “new” Toronto Branch since it opened on Nov. 19, 1990.


The Toronto Branch Library officially opened in 1936 as the first branch of the Carnegie Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, formed by action of the State Library Board to serve the whole county.


Evidence shows that a community library existed in Toronto as early as 1931.


The former Toronto Library was located at 317 Main St. in the former Opera House building, and continued to occupy that location for another 55 years, with the rent paid by the City of Toronto until library funding changed in 1985.


My first visit to the old location in 1983 revealed a site that could be described as “adequate” with new ceilings installed in both storefronts, but three floors of apartments with leaking plumbing had taken a toll on the location.


In the 1980s, the federal Library Services and Construction Act provided some funding for replacement or “underserved” populations. 


State Library of Ohio staff visited the location on a day that a bathtub had overflowed and the jerry-rigged downspout was pouring soapy water onto the sidewalk outside the library.


Then-Toronto Mayor Robert Wilson worked with the library system to find a location for a new library and assisted with the paperwork requirements for an LSCA grant application.


About a dozen public library projects submitted applications for the 1989 funding cycle, and by a mere one vote at the state level, the Toronto Branch Library was approved for $ 185,000 in federal funding, matched by $ 302,000 in Capital Funds.


The City of Toronto provided four building lots that were formerly occupied by the Roosevelt School.


Construction began in late 1989 but was slowed when it was found that when the Roosevelt School building had been demolished, most of the debris had been dumped in the basement and 60 truckloads had to be hauled away before construction could begin.


Three cisterns were found on the site, as well as the copper boiler from the school; all of which had to be removed.  All of this required larger foundations than originally necessary.


Dedication and opening took place Nov. 19, 1990 with long-time librarian Jeanette Dougherty cutting the ribbon, and special guest “Babe” Wallach in attendance.  Her son was the Director of the Dayton-Montgomery County Library and she had lived in Toronto for many years.


Michael Lucas attended from the State Library of Ohio. (Later State Librarian)  He too is a Toronto native.


In the 25 years that have passed, public libraries have changed with the times.  The library system acquired the neighboring house for more parking, as well as the former candy store.


The 20 year roof was replaced with a metal roof, and the Toronto Branch Library building has been used as a “pattern” for at least five other Ohio libraries, that I know about.


A couple of the Toronto staff has been there all 25 years that the library has existed; others are newer to the building.  From the first day, the library has been connected to the SEO Automation System which today consists of 92 public library systems with more than 200 locations around the State of Ohio.


Toronto has every right to be proud of their library locations, but actually the whole county is proud of not only Toronto, but all seven libraries that serve Jefferson County.


Visit the Toronto Library this month to celebrate its Silver Anniversary; refreshments will be served on the 19th.