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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.

Ohio Library Legislative Day

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 1, 2016

Each spring, the Ohio Library Council sponsors “Ohio Library Legislative Day” in Columbus, to provide Ohio’s public libraries with the opportunity to share information with legislators regarding library services in Ohio.

This year, Mike Gray, Assistant Director of our library system accompanied me to the event to represent the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.


Ohio’s 251 public library districts are funded in part by the Public Library Fund, which receives 1.70 percent of state general revenues.


This makes Ohio’s libraries different, as we are separate entities, operating outside other local governments.


I was talking with the Director of the Columbus Metropolitan Library System at Legislative Day, and he noted that they had 15 legislators with which to meet.  I told him that we were meeting with our 2 legislators who represent our service area.


This shows the difference that Ohio’s population makes, but it also shows the similarity in Ohio’s library funding --- the fact that the Columbus Metropolitan Library and our library system both operate from the same funding pool and provide many shared services through statewide services.


A strong history of sharing resources exists in Ohio, dating back to the Library Development Office that opened in 1906 at the State Library of Ohio.


Union catalogs of shared books were common in the 1930s, and Ohio had (and still has) the earliest computerized database of library collections beginning in 1967.


Today, many Ohio public libraries are linked together to be able to share resources.  Our own library system is part of the SEO Library System consisting of 92 Ohio libraries at over 200 locations throughout the state.


Other systems operated by Cleveland Public Library and Columbus Metropolitan Library to name only two of the existing networks.


OPLIN, the Ohio Public Library Information Network, provides networking to link Ohio’s libraries and provides statewide databases for all Ohio citizens.


Columbus economist Howard Fleeter presented a report on the cost effectiveness of Ohio’s libraries during Legislative Day.


He reported that Ohio’s libraries has the highest number of library transactions per capita in the nation with more than 234 million transactions, or 20 per person.


Ohio ranks first in the nation for library visits with 7.5 per capita.


More than 77 percent of Ohioans have an active library card account.


Much of Ohio’s library structure was developed throughout the 19th Century, with a boost from Andrew Carnegie’s funding of 105 Ohio libraries between 1899-1919.


Then-State Senator Robert Taft rewrote many of Ohio’s library laws in the 1930s, due to his love for his Cincinnati Library.


Today the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is Ohio’s largest library system serving county-wide with some 42 library branches and a Main Library that extends over the adjoining streets. 


At a recent meeting of the Public Library Association, I was seated with librarians from six different states and it was difficult for them to understand the sharing of resources that takes place in Ohio on a daily basis.


My thanks to State Rep. Jack Cera and State Sen. Lou Gentile for taking time to meet with us and allowing us to share Jefferson County’s library story with them.