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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.

We are Number 35

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County is 35th in size of the 251 Public Library Districts in Ohio.  We have been in that position for some time.


Our library system here in Jefferson County is larger than you probably anticipated.  We are of similar size with other systems in SE Ohio such as Muskingum County – Zanesville, Licking County – Newark, Scioto County – Portsmouth, and Washington County – Marietta.


Approximately half of Ohio’s 88 counties consist of one countywide public library system with branches, with the other counties divided with independent systems formed prior to the 1947 cut-off for the establishment of new public library districts.


Ohio is also rich with some large metropolitan library systems including Cleveland Public Library, the Columbus Metropolitan Library, and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County with its 40+ branches.


Ohio is unique with several online networks that link our public libraries into networks to be benefit of all.  Our library has been part of the SEO system with 90 public library systems and over 200 locations.


These are all reasons why Ohio circulates more books per capita from public libraries that any state in the Union.  The Ohio Digital Library is also one of the largest eBook systems in the U.S.


As I have been assembling statistics for 2014 for our Library System, I have been excited.  We broke all records for usage last year with almost 920,000 items checked out or downloaded from our system by more than 30,000 active library card holders.


And yes, people still are checking out those paper books, as well as DVDs and Books on Disc, and eBooks and eMagazines, and all those new things of the technological age.


I think we are going to pass a Million Items in the near future as the public library continues to serve the public, as well as the “new public” discovering the library for the first time with eBooks.


Back in 1983 when I started as Director, we circulated about 350,000 items and were very proud of that number.  That was before the Internet, before downloads, before eBooks.


In 1988, we were one of the first four public libraries to link to the SEO Library Center in Caldwell as the State Library of Ohio began the process of allowing our collections to share around the State of Ohio.


In just 25 years, that has changed to laundry carts full of things moving through our library locations on a daily basis to fill the information needs of our public.


That is now supplemented by the Ohio Digital Library collection that just drifts through the cloud of technology ready to be downloaded wherever and whenever.


Some 95 online databases are accessible within that “other branch library” that we now operate called a Web Page touching literally billions of bytes of information with your library card.


At the same time, the Carnegie Building still sits in the same place it has occupied for 113 years dispensing library services, just with additional tools and phones without the ear piece.


Today you might encounter one of the 67 staff members at one of our 7 locations around the county, (9 if you count the Web Site and Bookmobile) and you don’t even have to enter one of our buildings if you don’t want to.


We like to see and meet the people who use the library.  In the “old days” people had to come to the library and browse; now lots of people do that online and we see them just when they pick up their items at the desk, or we see the computer passing information to a library card hiding at home.


Sometimes we meet one of our customers who has been “lurking in our Server” and downloading eBooks, and finally came in to see what the library really looked like.


According to those computer runs of statistics, our library system still has 200,305 print volumes on our shelves and subscribes to paper magazines.


We have nearly 20,000 DVDs and 10,000 Audio Books and you can still call the library, or e-mail us, or fax us, or even write us a letter or post card.