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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 Toronto Branch Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Friday, November 27, 2009


In 1906, an office of “library development” was opened at the State Library of Ohio.


At that time, public libraries across Ohio had been opened by various governments and the infusion of funds from Andrew Carnegie had promoted many new libraries.


Libraries existed in a somewhat haphazard pattern around the state, with some areas having no library service at all.


Changes started in 1935 when the Ohio Legislature allocated $ 100,000 in “state aid” to provide grants to public libraries to begin extending library service county-wide.


“State Library Field Worker” Mildred W. Sandoe arrived in Jefferson County and started gathering statistics regarding available library services.


On January 1, 1936, the Carnegie Library of Steubenville added “and Jefferson County” to its name and informed the State Library that they would accept county-wide responsibility.


In the fall of 1936, “state aid” came to Jefferson County to begin the expansion of library services to all areas of the county.


Funding of public libraries was moving from local governments to the new intangibles tax, and the new library laws required any library to serve the county’s residents.


The Legislature clarified the law that public libraries may open branches, book stations, and traveling book services to provide that service.


“Bookmobile” service was not mentioned, as the word was not in the dictionary in the 1930s and the legislators wouldn’t include it in the language of the bill.


Library development got another shot-in-the-arm when the W.P.A. Library Program was formed and provided funds for staff and books to extend county-wide service.


In Jefferson County, the only other organized public library was the Toronto Public Library, which had been opened in 1931 in the city building.


In 1936, it became a branch of the Carnegie Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County and moved to its long-time location at 317 Main St. in the former Opera House building.


Over its many years of operation, Stella C. White, Jeannette Dougherty, and Beth Vanweelden have served as the manager of the Toronto Branch.


In 1989, the library system received a grant to replace the Toronto Branch with a new facility on Daniels Street.


The site of the former Roosevelt School was donated by the City of Toronto for the new library branch.


And the library system began to form, as book stations in Adena, Dillonvale, Tiltonsville, and Brilliant became branch libraries.


In 1948, the county Bookmobile was established to provide library service to the smaller communities of the county.


State law now prohibits the formation of any new public libraries.


Any new libraries must be a branch of an existing library system.


And the postscript to this story……..Mildred W. Sandoe (1900-1969), the State Library Field Worker, was a friend to co-worker Helen H. Santmyer (1895-1986) who in 1982 allowed the Ohio State University Press to publish a manuscript that she had written years before.


She had Mildred read the text and offer suggestions.


The small publication of the 1,100 page book was so successful that G.P. Putnam’s Sons re-issued the book, “…and Ladies of the Club,” which was a renowned best-seller for many years.


Mildred Sandoe is also known in library circles for her 1942 publication of the “County Library Primer,” which was a guide around the U.S. for how to form county-wide public library services.


That publication today provides a history of public library services, placing Ohio forefront in the nation.