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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 end of SOLO

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, June 25, 2006

Last week, the final meeting of the Board of Trustees of the SOLO Regional Library System was held.


The organization will officially close for business on June 30, 2006.


The cooperative of libraries was formed in 1972 as a federal project to inspire sharing of materials between libraries of southeastern Ohio.


The group of libraries wrote joint grants, had shared resources, and tried new technology that could be applied to each library.


In later years, SOLO sponsored Continuing Education for the staff of the 14 area libraries.


Federal funds for library cooperation ended in 1998, and SOLO became a state-funded Regional Library System, with 14 libraries in 11 counties being members.


A small office and computer lab was constructed next to the State Library's Southeast Center near Caldwell.


Originally, SOLO stood for Southeastern Ohio Library Organization, and was one of the seven such organizations serving Ohio's libraries.


Since 2001, state funding for Regional Library Systems has been cut by 44 percent and the State Library announced a program to reduce the Regionals to 4; each serving one-fourth of Ohio.


Thus, existing Regionals in Ohio will all be closing June 30, 2006.


To the average library user, the SOLO Regional Library System operated behind-the-scenes.


You would not have even been aware of its existence, unless you remembered the early CDs in our collection marked "SOLO CD."


SOLO's purpose was to allow experimentation of new library products before an individual library expended funds on the new media.


In the 1970s, SOLO purchased the first telefaxsimile machines (just fax, now) for library use.


We would insert a paper, and the drum would begin to spin, transmitting the page in about six minutes.


To receive a fax, the process was reversed, with an odd smell of ink being burned into a special paper.


Many memories of 35 years of library cooperation were rehashed last week and we all sorted the paperwork of an era.


Some things went to recycling, some papers were sent for archival storage.


An era had ended.


The public libraries of the 11 counties from Steubenville to Marietta to Newark look different today, and our tools and services have vastly improved due to the sharing that SOLO promoted.


The Digital Shoebox Project that has 40,000 pages of digitized local history has been given to our library system, and area libraries will continue to support it.


Committees of children's librarians will continue to meet.


We will also meet to plan for the operations of the Digital Shoebox.


SOLO will live on in its deeds of the past, and its cooperation for the future.  It has served its purpose.