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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.

My Library / Your Library / Our Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, September 06, 2015

 

“You have a wonderful library!” is an often-heard comment that I receive.

 

I quickly thank the person for their comment, and remind them that the library system that they are talking about belongs to everyone and is a community resource.

 

Over my 32 years at the helm of the library system, I have received great comments about each and every library location and the staff that works at all of them.

 

Ohio has 251 Public Library Districts with more than 850 “library outlets” to serve Ohio’s citizens with their information needs.

 

The Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County is the 35th largest public library district in Ohio, out of those 251 total districts.

 

There are 16,536 public libraries in the U.S. with over 135,000 library staff to operate them for the public.

 

Since the economic downturn in 2008, we have lost a number of libraries to closure.  Most haven’t made the news as they were smaller branches around the nation.

 

Equally distressing is the reduction in library hours, with some Main Library buildings only open as few as 3 days-a-week.

 

The Detroit Library Commission recommended the closure of 20 of their 42 branch libraries, but was able to deal with budget cuts by closing 4 libraries and reducing hours at other locations.

 

Ohio is the home of some of the nation’s largest public libraries; including the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Cleveland Public Library, and the Cuyahoga County Library System.

 

Ohio’s largest public library system is the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County with 40 branches.  Over 18 million items are checked out every year at PLCH.

 

It is interesting to read about the changes taking place in America’s public libraries as new forms of technology and services appear for the public.

 

The Cincinnati Library is promoting the download of eBooks on their website, noting that about 15 percent of their checkouts were now eBook format.

 

Ohio’s public libraries have developed a shared network of eBooks through the Ohio Digital Library to maximize the titles available to the public.

I find eBooks to be an interesting addition to our library system.  People either love eBooks or not, and many people use both eBooks and traditional paperbound books.  People with visual impairments enjoy the ability to adjust the font of their devices when reading an eBook.

 

Other people, who use eBooks, never “darken the library door” and simply download their eBooks from home.

 

Last month, a woman who had been using eBooks and eMagazines downloaded from home called the library for directions on how to find the library ---- as she had never physically been to the building.

 

Technology has also changed the operation and function of our smaller branch libraries.  On my first trip around the county in 1983, a patron of our Dillonvale Branch told me that the Main Library in Steubenville would “send her” 20-30 mystery books every month.

 

Today, the computer network provides access to over 7 million books that can be requested online and sent directly to Dillonvale.

 

All libraries in Ohio are serving as “Gateways” to book collections around the state.

 

There was a controversy in 1952, when the Main Library here in Steubenville sent about 100 mystery titles to the Newark Public Library in exchange for the same number from that library.  The thought was that library users in both cities wanted different mystery books to read.

 

The reality was that people were shocked to see books stamped with other library names in them, and the Board investigated why the librarians were sending “our books all around.”

 

Today, the names of various libraries around Ohio appear in books to be picked up, and electronic materials usually don’t contain ownership stamps like paper books do.

 

Actually, Ohio’s public library resources belong to everyone in Ohio with the library funding provided by Ohio’s Public Library Fund.