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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.

36 Years

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, March 24, 2019

If you were interested in employment in an Ohio public library back in the 1980s, you subscribed to the monthly publication, “Opportunities in Ohio libraries,” produced by the State Library of Ohio.


I had directed the small library in the town of Delphos for six years and was interested in “moving on” so I examined the monthly listings and sent my resume to potential libraries around the state.


One day I received a phone call from Floyd Dickman, one of the regional consultants for the State Library, particularly known for his children’s literature interest, asking how the job search was going as he was the person who took requests for the publication.


He then inquired whether I had applied for Steubenville, as it was a river town like my native Marietta, and was someplace that I could identify with.


Frankly, I hadn’t looked that the current month’s Opportunities as I was busy with a library levy renewal, but said I would check it out.


It sounded interesting, a countywide library system with branches; the job listing was a little thin with information but a librarian could overcome that issue.


I sent my resume, and quickly got a response from a Board member named John Maltese who wanted me to come for an interview on the 17th of March, 1983.


In the meantime, Mr. Maltese sent me a packet of information about Steubenville and Jefferson County from the Chamber of Commerce, as well as some library data.


The interview was with the Board’s subcommittee of Mr. Maltese and Robert Freeze, accompanied by a library tour by staff member Judy Dobzynski.


Unknown to me at the time, the woman who seemed to follow me on my library tour was Dr. A. Eileen Cozart, a library regular and local historian who had been asked to offer her opinion on me as a potential new Director.


Also unknown was the fact that the Board had contacted the Delphos Chamber of Commerce  as a reference, as well as a Delphos attorney who knew a Board member from here as a law school classmate.


Following a second interview with the entire Board, I was offered the position of Director starting June 1, after the levy campaign was completed in Delphos.

My wife and I arrived in town and settled in for what I thought would be a 5-10 year experience, which turned out to be a 36 year experience, all to my delight.


The previous Director was deceased, the Assistant Director had left six month before, and the Finance Officer wanted to retire, as well as 7 other staff members.


And away we went down the road; and oh by the way, funding of Ohio public libraries was changing and the Board wanted a “West End Library” added to the system which had first been proposed in 1964.


The Board in Delphos wondered if they should keep that position open just-in-case, but I said no, this will be a wonderful challenge.


I found an incredibly supportive staff and Board ready to help in any and every way.


In those 36 years, 2 new branch libraries were constructed, 3 were renovated, and that West End Library was constructed as the Schiappa Branch Library ---- and the new state funding of libraries became a reality in 1986 with a local levy supplement in 2010.


I was elected President of the Ohio Library Association in 1991, served on its Board, and enjoyed meeting so many Ohio librarians over the years.


And our library system grew to serve Jefferson County residents with a million and a half checkouts, access points, downloads, and such every year.


But at the same time, the library system had a completely inaccessible Main Library building, a wonderful, historic, loved Carnegie building that met not one ADA standard.


Every year the State Library’s annual report asked the question, “Is the Main Library ADA accessible?” to which I routinely said, “No.”


About 2012, the question disappeared from the form, so I called and inquired why that is no longer asked on the state form, and was told “Alan, everyone knows that your Main Library is the only one in Ohio that isn’t accessible!”


Next Sunday will be my last weekly article, and I will conclude with that story.