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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 State Library of Ohio - 200 years

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, April 23, 2017

The State Library of Ohio marks the 200th anniversary of its establishment with the publication of a new book titled, “The State Library at 200: A Celebration of Library Services to Ohio.”


The book is authored by Cynthia G. McLaughlin, who spent 35 years working for the State Library of Ohio before retiring in 2005.


Eastern Ohio knows Cindy quite well as a native of Scio, and someone who was always in attendance when we opened a new library in our area.


Ohio was the first state formed as a result of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which stated, “The means of education shall forever be encouraged.” 


The early Board of Library Commissioners stated that it was their desire to have “a station in every hamlet” for Ohio’s citizens.


Governor Thomas Worthington started the State Library of Ohio on Dec. 2, 1817 when he presented a collection of 509 books to the legislature that he had purchased from Mathew Carey and Son bookseller.


In 1818, the legislature completed the task of establishing the State Library, which was housed in a state office building facing High St. in Columbus before moving into the new State House in 1856.


Only legislators and some government employees were allowed to use the State Library in the 19th Century until a major change took place in 1896.


The Garfield Library Law, named for the Ohio senator whose father was the late President, was approved, which opened the State Library to all citizens.  Rutherford P. Hayes, son of another Ohio President, served as one of the first new Commissioners of the library.


Over 100 Traveling Library boxes of books were sent statewide to reading clubs, citizen groups, boards of education, public libraries, and grange organizations.


In 1906, Ohio became a national leader with the establishment of an office of “Library Organizer” within the State Library to capitalize on the Carnegie funds to establish public libraries across the State of Ohio.


Traveling libraries grew to over 1,300 by 1930 as the State Library of Ohio moved to its new headquarters at 65 S. Front St. in Columbus in the new Ohio Departments Building.


In the 1930s, local libraries saw new local funding, combined with library development and WPA library funding; the State Library of Ohio coordinated development efforts to establish a local library in all 88 counties.


By the 1960s state and federal funds were used to establish regional library systems and contractual Bookmobile service around Ohio.


Statewide Development Plans for Ohio’s libraries were undertaken and revised as technology impacted library services.  The Traveling Libraries were replaced by improved local libraries and the regional centers.


After 70 years on Front St., the State Library of Ohio moved to a single level facility at 274 E. First Ave. in 2000 when the Ohio Supreme Court moved to occupy the whole building.


The Genealogy Collection at the State Library moved in 2007 to the Columbus Metropolitan Library for better access and hours.


The State Library of Ohio continues to maintain its Archives, and state and federal government document program, as well as supporting information services for state government.


The era of digitization, eBooks, and online services offers new vistas for Ohio’s libraries and the planning and coordination of the State Library of Ohio.


I certainly enjoyed this new book, but I think many people outside  the library world will find the book informative and exciting.


It is summed up with the closing statement, “The Library’s abundance of materials, along with unimagined future information in future formats, will be available to support the state library’s mission of providing library services to Ohio’s citizens and state government in 2117 and beyond in the interest of sustaining a Smarter Ohio.”