PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
Groundhog Day next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of our Schiappa Branch Library. Actually, a groundhog had nothing to do with the library opening; it just happened that the Monday of that week was February 2. That opening was the culmination of years of work and planning, and a lot of things that came together at the right time.
As early as 1964, the Library Board had been reviewing the possibility of establishing a "West End Library" as the population of the area shifted westward from the downtown and hilltop areas of Steubenville. A Building Fund was established; sites were reviewed and rejected over the years.
In the 1980s, the Library Board moved forward by hiring Donald C. Potter as a consultant to review the issue of a new library. Mr. Potter strongly recommended locating a branch library in the western portion of Steubenville near commercial developments. He stated that a public library needed to be "where people go." He also expressed concern that if the library is located on Sunset Blvd., access from the busy street should be considered.
About the same time, some federal funding from the LSCA Program became available and John and Huberta Siciliano stepped forward to donate the site in memory of her parents. The plan was coming together, and the result stands today on Mall Drive, nearing its 20th anniversary. In those 20 years, the usage of the Schiappa Branch has increased every year.
Today, it accounts for 50 percent of the usage of the whole library system. The Schiappa Branch Library has a couple of cousins in Ohio. The Caldwell Public Library and the Columbiana Public Library were both designed by the same architect with similar features. The Public Library of Chillicothe and Ross County have repeated the concept of a branch library larger than the Main Library, and located in a commercial area.
After visiting us, they constructed the Northside Branch near shopping centers north of the City of Chillicothe, retaining the downtown Carnegie Building. This spring, the Guernsey County District Library will open its new Crossroads Branch east of Cambridge, retaining the downtown Carnegie Building.
It is all part of the whole. Whichever door you enter to use our library system is fine with us, and we are glad to have you. That door can be attached to our Bookmobile, or can be the new Information Portal that you access from your home computer on the library web site. That door can be library staffer who is visiting your school to do database training, or tell you about the Summer Reading Club.
Work on the Schiappa Library began in January 1985 with a bulldozer scraping away rocks and debris from the site. It was a real mud hole in the middle of winter. Everyone told me that it would fall apart being constructed on an old strip mine. I always explained about the 85 concrete caissons that supported the building. One day I had to drag a steel cable from the site that had remained from the coal stripping operation, pondering that Library School had missed this subject.
And now, 20 years down the road, it was all worth the effort. All you have to do is watch the small child in the playhouse in the children's area, reading his first book.