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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.

Our Library System and its Statistics

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, April 14, 2013

The State Library of Ohio selected this year to completely revise the required statistical format in which public library data is collected and provided to them by Ohio’s 251 public library districts.


In my 36 years of completing such forms, I can remember at least 5 major revisions of the format and there is no “good” time to tell Ohio’s library directors that a “new format will be introduced this year.”


In the old days, they would sponsor statewide workshops to introduce the forms, but today we receive an online training system over the state’s computer network.


Actually, the revision wasn’t all that bad, and the software system was able to fill in some of the questions before I had to do anything.  The bigger problem was getting the computer system to develop the answers that the State Library required.


You might be interested to know that the library system has 34,728 active accounts as of the end of 2012, those are the library cards issued so people can use the library.


Those cards are also active at neighboring libraries that are part of the same automation system including all Belmont, Harrison, and Carroll County libraries, as well as the East Liverpool Library in Columbiana County.


As I have said for years, the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County is the largest public library system on the Ohio River between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.


We have the most branches of any Ohio River city/county in the same area, with 7.


Those facilities are staffed with 66 people, a number smaller than our maximum staffing level in 1998 when we had 79 employees.


In these days of technology and online services, our library system still checked out three-quarters of a million books, DVDs, and books on CD during the year of 2012, and another 14,000 e-Books to library users.


In our libraries you will find 135 public access Internet-connected computers that were signed on over 100,000 times by the public.  There are another 40 computers for staff, and countless personal devices that link to our wireless networks around the county.


Our collections include over 200,000 print media (I still call them books) as well as having access to 7 million items in our database in 90 library systems around Ohio.  Some 30,000 DVDs and CDs are part of the collection.


The e-Book collection consists of 34,000 shared titles within the network and another 150,000 in Ohio’s statewide network, all floating around in Cyberspace awaiting some library cardholder to download the title so it can be used and automatically returned.

There are 304 online databases for library users to utilize, more stuff floating around ready for a library cardholder to latch onto and use for home, school, and work.


Our library system sponsors countless programs for the public, with an estimated 40,000 visits to those programs for children and adults.


It is becoming more difficult to define what services a public library provides in this day and age of technology and smart phones, but your library card has become the doorway to a whole new spectrum of information.


Our system has 8 high-speed copiers, scanners, and e-mail that are in constant use moving information here and there, downloading, forwarding, and such, as well as making color copies.


Libraries in SE Ohio were among the first in Ohio to have fax machines, going back to 1961.  Those were days of 6 minutes for each page of a fax to transmit, even longer to receive.


We seem to be the only place for tax forms, and we have given out “cases” of forms this year as well as specialized forms of all types and descriptions.


The Public Library continues to become everyone’s office for local, state, and federal agencies whose offices have disappeared and been replaced by a web site with information and forms.


All of this is why I just love working at the public library!  Every day of my library career has been different and challenging in providing services to the public.


Every day brings new questions, and new requests, and never a dull moment.  If you aren’t now, come and join the excitement either at our library system, or a public library near you!