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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 Year 2015 at the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, December 27, 2015

If you are like me, you are asking what happened to 2015?  We are halfway through the next decade of the 21st Century already!


This is also the time-of-year when I look back at the year that will shortly disappear and what happened in our libraries during that time period.


It will be the 32nd year that I will review the year that has passed for the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.  It seems like only yesterday that I arrived in town and put my pencils and pen in the desk drawer ready-to-go.


To bring that up-to-date, today I would sign on to my computer, put my tablet on the desk, plug in my smart phone, and put on some sort of headset.


The highlight of 2015 was the renewal of the Library Levy in the May primary election, extending the 1 Mill levy first approved in 2010 to the end of 2020.


75 percent of the voters approved the renewal, and I thank all the citizens of Jefferson County for their support of the library system.


Over 80 percent of Ohio’s public libraries have supplemental Library Levies today; a major change from the 30 percent in 2009 when the Public Library Fund was cut by the State of Ohio.


2016 promises some improvement in the state funding of libraries, due to the persistence of a handful of Legislators who insisted that the Public Library Fund be increased by a few percentage points.


It remains far short of the 2009 cut, and today the library budget is one-third local Library Levy, and two-thirds the Public Library Fund from the State of Ohio.


The Toronto Branch Library’s 1990 building celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, with more than 2 million items checked out over its history.


This year found over 6,000 new books added to the library collections, and the addition of the Preble County District Library to the automation system bring more library materials available for borrowing by library card holders.


There are now 7.5 million items in the shared collection that is available to all library card holders of the 92 Ohio public library systems in the database.


The eBook collection has passed 300,000 books floating in that “cloud” to be downloaded into your device.  Flipster, the database of current magazines has grown by 10 percent as more periodicals are online.


Our library’s Digital Shoebox Collection of local history materials has reached 85,000 images and has moved to a new computer platform and software allowing a doubling of items over the next five years.


The Local History and Genealogy Department of the library continues to digitize more materials so they are available around the world, as well as assembling and indexing new sources of information.


Library usage remains strong at the system’s 7 locations, and the Bookmobile usage has doubled as we have shifted services to senior housing areas, preschools, and remote community sites.


One of the door closers had to be replaced at one of our libraries, and the poor repairman couldn’t make the repairs as too many people were coming and going from the library.  He returned at 7:30 am to make the repair before the library opened.


Two weeks ago, the Main Library got its new historically-correct windows as Phase 1 of a renovation project on the 1902 building.  They give the building a beautiful new appearance, and provide energy efficiency and sound proofing to the structure.


The architectural firm of Valentour, English, Bodnar & Howell of Pittsburgh with Steubenville-native Tom Stanko is busy at work on the Carnegie Building doing a Master Plan that will address the ADA accessibility issue of the facility.


The building appears to be the only remaining public library in Ohio that is inaccessible by ADA standards.


The Ohio Valley Steelworker Statue was moved to the Main Library location, given a new coat of paint, and placed on its new foundation and pedestal overlooking the former steel mill.  A flag pole and lighting will be installed shortly.


These are only a few of the highlights for 2015.  As society and information changes with the times, it is exciting that the library changes with it; while the basic premise of a library remains the same --- to provide information to the public.