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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 Size of the new Main Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 22, 2018

 I can remember the moment when I was sure that something had to be done to make the Main Library building ADA accessible to the public.


It had been discussed for years, except the branch libraries had the same problem --- but their inaccessibility was coupled with poor conditions and a need for a new location.


I was finishing the State Library of Ohio report for 2011 and was surprised that the question, “Is your Main Library building ADA accessible?” was not in the report.


For 29 years, I had checked “no” and grumbled to myself.


So, I called the staffer at the State Library and inquired why that question had disappeared?  She responded, “Alan, everyone knows that your library isn’t accessible; and the other two libraries have now renovated, so you are the only ‘no’ remaining in Ohio.”


Not exactly something that you want to be remembered by --- you direct Ohio’s only non-accessible public library.


Oh well, various consultants and architects had told us for years that making our Carnegie building accessible would be difficult, expensive, and perhaps impossible.


I told the Library Board that we needed a plan, and maybe we couldn’t afford it, and maybe it wouldn’t work, and maybe it was impossible; but we need to examine it with an architect and do something.


We could only use the state funds, and the PLF had been reduced in 2009 although we always save funds from the budget for capital expenditures.


Three years of study and 8 options resulted in one option that everyone liked and met the approval of the Steubenville Historic Landmarks Commission and we were on the way to an ADA accessible library.


Work began in January of this year and for 4 months it was a lot of dirt moving, and demolition of the 1948 garages, and the 1963 annex.


Our contractor said, “When we come up out-of-the dirt” people always start getting excited and I dedicated the library to keeping everyone informed of the progress of their new library complex.


Well, the new annex to the Carnegie building has all the structural steel in-place, and the 2nd floor concrete will be poured shortly, followed by the roof trusses by the end of July.


They were correct, everywhere I go someone asks about the progress of the “new library” and comments of “how large” the complex looks, especially with various drone photos that have been placed on social media.


I wanted to explain that the old building complex had 14,277 sq. ft. and the new complex will have 16,010 sq. ft. so why does it look so large?


Remember that we first demolished a two-bay garage for the Bookmobile and delivery vehicle, in addition to the Reference Room and three offices; so subtract that square footage.


Those spaces were then replaced supplemented by a new entrance and lobby, stairways, and elevator with new public restrooms.


The Ohio Building Codes are dramatically different in 2018 than in 1902, so the current 24 inch wide stairways had to be replaced as well as utilities, fire suppression, security, and exits.


The good news is that rearrangement of the Carnegie building has provided additional usable floor space and study rooms --- with the public areas of the building finally separated from the staff areas.


Fire doors and 2nd exits are being constructed so that finally the complex will meet all Codes so that we aren’t “grandfathered” into past regulations.


The lower level of the Carnegie building will be entirely staff spaces, as well as part of the street level of the new annex where the Bookmobile, delivery services, and receiving area will be located.  A new meeting room is right inside the new entrance.


The 1st floor of the Carnegie building will remain nearly the same as before, the 2nd floor of the new building will house the Children’s Library, computer and reference services, and reading area all accessible by a central elevator and wide stairways.


What may seem unusual is that you will approach the main floor of the Carnegie building “backwards” from before and the central public service desk is on the street level.


And yes, we found another artifact, a 1940s era root beer bottle that was stuck inside a storm sewer line and when removed has caused some leakage into the Carnegie building.


Guess we will have to fix that --- and we plan a display at the Schiappa Branch shortly so everyone can share in these odds and ends.


You can follow descriptions and photos of the Main Library project on social media at