Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County | Home
June 25, 2019 | Branch Locations | Contact Us
Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County
Serving Jefferson County, Ohio Since 1899
Find us on Instagram
Pay Fines/Make a Donation My Account

Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The ER Card

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, October 14, 2018


School students from pre-school through college are common users of the public library, but oh my, have times and methods changed.


In the 1970s and 1980s during my early years of librarianship, students would make their appearance at the public library in the evening and Saturdays looking to utilize encyclopedias and reference books for research projects.


Those sources were supplemented by the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, a dreary green set of indexes to magazines and journals.


Sometimes an interlibrary loan book would perk up a research project, and catch the attention of the teacher grading the project.


By the 1980s, some information had made its way to a disc or could be copied on a tractor-fed printer.


Early forms of the Internet came to libraries about 1990 in the form of a “gopher” which was developed in Ohio by the State Library and serviced to public libraries.  “Wow” was the reaction of a library user when handed a printed form of a journal article.


The Internet was started in 1969 as a method of moving information among Defense Dept. contractors and quickly moved in the college community.


In 1995, Ohio became a leader among libraries with the formation of OPLIN, the Ohio Public Library Information Network, providing a graphic interface to public libraries which were automating card catalogs of their collection.


Google, Yahoo, and Dogpile were common search engines bringing huge masses of information to the public.


E-Books were becoming commonplace by 2000, although not initially technologically workable, quickly overcome to a more usable format.


Databases were growing in leaps and bounds across our state as public libraries shared systems in mass; something still unique to Ohio public libraries.


The Reader’s Guide was discontinued in 2007, replaced by a merged company of former publishers that provided online indexes to more journals and magazines in a public library than ever before with online access rather than those shelves of back files of paper magazines.


The library website became another branch of our public library system where anyone with a device could access billions of pages of information, some only with a library card.


Over 1.5 million downloads happen in our own library system including the traditional checkout of the paperbound book.


The library card has assumed a newfound purpose of being the key to unlocking much of the online resources of the library, and now a new card format called the ER Card (Electronic Resource) allows access to just the electronic items by students.


The public library is a trusted resource that stands the “test of time” and can be used through participating school systems.


It is far more than just a Google search; it brings scholarly research right to the student with new resources being provided to Ohio’s public libraries every month.


A new resource called has been opened up in Ohio public libraries with 12,000 online classes, and many local library users have jumped on this new product.


And what would Andrew Carnegie think?  From his writings, I think he would love the concept of more information for the public!


His whole concept of funding public libraries related to a man in Alleghany City allowing him to borrow books to read.


This is just borrowing books in a new format and helping the general public.


2019 will mark the 100th anniversary of the death of the Scotsman who provided 2,509 libraries for America.