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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 Bookmobile Program

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Bookmobile Program, which is operated by the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, recently passed 75 years of operation.


Over the years, many changes have taken place with the program as times and circumstances have changed; yet the basic purpose of the Bookmobile remains.


Today the focus of the Bookmobile is to take library services to senior housing units, preschools, and communities removed from existing branch libraries.


Usage has grown to the point that the Bookmobile circulates more books and materials than three of our branch libraries.


The newest factor is that the collection of eBooks and eMagazines that can be downloaded to your own device constitutes another “new branch library” and that too does more downloads than some of our “fixed” branch libraries.


Before you get in a panic about the future of the 7 library buildings in Jefferson County, know that they are all important to the system, and busy as well.


In 2016, you can open the front door of your public library in a variety of ways, from the typical human hand on the door handle of those familiar library buildings, to an email to the library website.


You can use the new Live Chat feature on our website, or send a fax, or mail a letter, or use your phone to call any of our departments.


You can use one of the 135 public computers in one of those seven buildings, or use your computer at home to search the library catalog, or use the library APP on your smart phone.


The online databases are attached to that “other” branch library, the library website; and can be accessed with your library card.


Relating to the Bookmobile, it is simply another service point of the Library System and can also access the same resources as other branch libraries.


The first Bookmobile in 1940 was a Book Truck, and it looked more like a “panel truck” vehicle that moved crates of books around the county depositing them at approved Stations throughout Jefferson County.


This was 4 years after the State Library of Ohio approved making the former Carnegie Library of Steubenville as the “county extension library” for the county and increasing the budget three-fold for the new work.


In 1948, the Library System acquired a Gerstenslager Bookmobile that allowed people to actually board the vehicle at stops and select books.  Criticism over buying a foreign vehicle ended when it was found that the company was headquartered in Wooster, Ohio.


Four different vehicles operated within the Bookmobile Program over the next 60 years with two different teams of staff working on the Bookmobile including Alfred and Billie, and Lee and Dialene.


A five-day-per-week schedule took the Bookmobile to every corner of Jefferson County, including schools, village stops, and housing complexes.

In 2009, with the 34 percent cut in funding from the State of Ohio, the Bookmobile was removed from service as part of the effort to balance the budget and a new plan was developed for the service.


A Library Levy was approved by Jefferson County voters in 2010 allowing a new Bookmobile program to be a reality.


The new Bookmobile operational plan included service to senior housing centers, preschools, and communities remote from our branch libraries using a new Sprinter vehicle.


School stops were ended with the improvement of school libraries and networking into statewide regional centers.


The new program has proven to be a real success as it has grown each year since 2011 with Sara Malcolm as head of the program.