PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
Over the past year, the library has been interviewing students regarding their use of the public library. The interviews were done individually, as well as in focus groups that allowed a group discussion of the public library system and its importance to students. Additional interviews were performed with area teachers and school officials.
The results showed that students and teachers use the public library system to prepare for, and to research school assignments. The public library system is utilized to supplement school resources, due to the expanded nature of our database containing 68 libraries around Ohio, containing resources that can be borrowed locally.
The public library isn't used by students and teachers because of a lack of time, a lack of need of the services of the library, and because things can be found on the Internet. It was quickly apparent that many of the services of the public library system need promotion and marketing with the public.
First, use of the library today does not involve a physical trip to a library building. Hundreds of people are downloading e-books from the library web site without coming to the library. Thousands of e-books are available at no charge, can be used, and return to the library without any effort.
"Homework Now!" and "Know It Now! 24 x 7 Reference" are online services connected from our web site to live operators who communicate online to answer your questions and information needs. Almost 50 databases are available at home from the library web site that can be accessed with a library card. The databases range from a Literature Resource Center to a Biography search, science information to an online encyclopedia. Local history information is contained within the Digital Shoebox; genealogy is on Ancestry Library Edition. The newest database is the Ohio Legal Forms, providing thousands of online legal forms that can be downloaded and printed.
Secondly, the library catalog is online and can also be accessed from home. Some 5.2 million items are in the catalog, and can be electronically requested for pick-up at your local library. We found that some people who had used the service earlier thought it had ended. The system was upgraded last June, and people who had the catalog bookmarked on their computer couldn't find the new site. All you need to do is connect to the library's web site at www.steubenville.lib.oh.us and link to the catalog, then re-bookmark to the new address.
With all of these services available from our web site, we still need to remind everyone that the library system operates seven buildings and a bookmobile in the county, staffed with real human beings at desks with telephones. That may sound like an odd statement, but stop and think about services provided today by many agencies, and the library's human beings are unique in today's world.
So, if you need information, you can visit the library. You can telephone us, fax us, e-mail us, snail mail us, or get the information on your own on the library web site. When the Main Library building opened in 1902 with a little room stocked with materials specifically for Civil War veterans; could they have envisioned that a century later the same space would house the computer servers?