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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.

A Government Agency that Does Positive Things -- the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, October 20, 2013

Recently, in the middle of the ongoing discussion relating to the government shut-down; someone commented that we need to hear more about the positive things that government agencies do in our lives.


I immediately thought of a government agency that I think does great things for the public, but of course, I am biased.


People often don’t think of a public library as a “government agency” but it is, and always has been.


The one exception in Ohio was the Wagnalls Memorial Library in Lithopolis, which was funded entirely with private foundation funds.  Unfortunately, the stock market and poor investing now has it funded as a “government entity.”


So, Ohio’s 251 public library districts are government agencies; and with the 2009 cut to the Public Library Fund, some two-thirds of those districts now have supplemental library levies, including Jefferson County.


What does the public receive as services from their public library systems?


Our library system operates seven buildings and a bookmobile, and employees some 66 staff to operate those buildings.


When you call or visit those buildings, there will be a human being that answers the phone or is behind the desk --- which is unusual in this day and age.


Because we are often the only public service desk in a community, our staff now fields questions relating to other agencies that exist only as a web site or 800 phone number.


We are often getting forms and information for the public for other agencies that no longer exist in the form of an office or building.


Of course, a public library is still what we have always been --- a place to get books and information, although those books may be books on CD, or eBooks that exist in cyberspace and don’t actually require a physical visit to the library building.


Some people choose their physical books from their home computer and simply come to the library to pick up what they have chosen.  The eBook folks don’t actually have to come to the library, their books return on their own.


We would love for you to come to the library anyway, and there’s a lot to see and do at the library.


A week’s worth of library programming includes movies, “Play and Learn” sessions for the children, craft time, Teen Read Week, duct tape crafts, music video games, and gaming for teens.


Book Clubs exist at all of our locations now, and are growing in popularity for people who want to discuss what they are reading and share with others.


They are perhaps the liveliest activity ongoing at our libraries today.


Our new Bookmobile travels to communities removed from our branch libraries, as well as preschools and senior housing units.  We are one of the few public libraries in the area still operating Bookmobile services.


Our library system is linked to 90 other public libraries in Ohio with 7 million items in their collections.  If there is something that those libraries don’t own, we can look further to locate the title and have it sent here.


On Nov. 7, the Ohio Digital Library will be activated; joining our local eBook library with Ohio’s other eBook library so both can be accessed as one!


I would like to thank Sandy Day for helping fill in the Sunday articles during my medical problem.


My grandmother would say that I have a “hitch in my get-along” that needs repaired, and that will be done once these drugs get things in order.


So, for now, I am back to writing my articles, until the repair job can be scheduled and done.