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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.

Scrapbooks at the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, March 13, 2016

Recently, our Library System received the donation of the papers and scrapbooks of the late Steubenville attorney Nathan Stern (1913-2003).


We were delighted with the donation as the materials will make a wonderful addition to our Local History and Genealogical Department housed at the Schiappa Branch Library.


Attorney Stern was an active part of the community and served on a variety of Boards and Committees over his 89 year lifespan, and was a strong promoter of the area and in particular, the improvement of the area’s highway system.


I would estimate that it will take a year to process the donation and prepare the materials for use by the public.


This donation supplements our Local History Collection and two other gifts that fit into this category of materials.


In 2004, the Library System received the scrapbooks of “The Administration of Mayor Andrew W. Miller of the City of Steubenville” which were maintained by Mayor Miller during his terms of office which included 1962-63, and 1966-1971.


This donation provides the background of local activities of the area in the 1960s.


Another donation in 2007 was the scrapbooks of Gladys Edwards Davison (1904-2008) who was employed by “The Hub Department Store” in downtown Steubenville for 47 years and maintained a scrapbook about the store.


Without her efforts, the history of “The Hub” would have been lost forever with only bits and pieces surviving in other sources.


The problem with all of these donations is the condition of the scrapbooks and papers at the time of the donation.


Gladys Davison’s scrapbooks were probably in the worst condition, having been loaned and used by people at reunions over the years.  Mayor Miller’s scrapbooks and Atty. Stern’s scrapbooks are in better condition, but all suffer from the quality of the basic materials.


“Keeping scrapbooks” became popular following World War II with large sheets of paper between “pretend” leather bindings sold at every store around.  The problem was that the inexpensive paper upon which clippings and letters were affixed have now deteriorated.


In the 1970s, scrapbooks were “improved” with a stiffer board paper and a plastic cover held in place with a weak adhesive.


The problem is that the clippings and letters are today being destroyed by the chemicals in the adhesives and the acidic pulp in the paper stock used in the scrapbooks.


The answer is to remove all the clippings and papers from the scrapbooks, and if that isn’t possible, to photocopy them onto acid-free paper.


Our Library System takes it one step further and has the refreshed materials digitized and placed in our Digital Shoebox online so that people can use them while not causing further deterioration.


A hard print copy is also produced for the Local History Collection and the original materials are retired to our Archives.


The Hub scrapbooks were likely days away from being deposited in a dumpster never to be seen again.  The Miller and Stern scrapbooks were being lovingly cared for by family members who worried about their future.


Local institutions are the only ones who will care for these items, as state and federal agencies have volumes of such materials they need to preserve.


Early in my library career, I had the experience of dealing with a scrapbook series of enormous magnitude.


When I was a teenager working at the Marietta Library, we received the donation of 75 (or so) scrapbooks from the owner of the Lafayette Hotel named S. Durward Hoag.  Contained within those scrapbooks were perhaps 10,000 pages of area history and his writings.


The Director of the library asked if I would like to try and organize them and index them; a task that took 4 years using an indexing guide book and lots of glue and patching.


Later they were microfilmed to preserve the deteriorating paper, and today they remain a part of that library’s collection in their Local History Department.