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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.

Public Library / Law Library Collaborates

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County is collaborating with the Jefferson County Law Library in a review of their archival items that are retained in a glass-front case in their library in the Court House.


Our library system has upgraded and enhanced the Digital Shoebox Project that contains more than 80,000 pages of regional history items, and a suggestion from our Library Board Member Lydia Spragin resulted in this collaboration to determine if any of the Law Library materials should be digitized.


Ardis Stein, the law librarian (and former employee of our library system) developed a great inventory of their archives, including any hand-written notes or signatures that the books might contain.


That inventory was reviewed by our own Local History and Genealogy Department, and was also sent to Katy Klettlinger, a library consultant at the State Library of Ohio for her review as well.


Ms. Klettlinger used the resources at the State Library of Ohio to determine if the books on the law library inventory were owned by other archives or academic libraries, and/or if the item has already been digitized by Internet Archive, Google Books, the Hathi Trust, or the Digital Public Library of America.


We were looking for any local connections, or the name of anyone who might have donated the book to the law library.


The result was that about a dozen of the 70 books were “unique” or had local connections and would be candidates to add to the Digital Shoebox.


Half of the books on the short list relate to laws in Ohio during the early 19th Century, many of which had local connections.  In those days, the State of Ohio made many decisions for local governments.


There was also an 1868 “City Ordinances and State Laws relating to and Governing the City of Steubenville” which would supplement other ordinance books that are in the Digital Shoebox already.


John J. Scott, the official court reporter for Municipal Court, is listed as the author of a three volume set of documents.  He is better-known today as the source of the name of a major street in Steubenville.


“The Ohio Officer’s Guide and Clerk’s Companion” was published in 1835 and seems to be a book distributed to state and local officials from towns and cities to counties and townships.  What makes it unique is that local resident James Turnbull authored it, and it was published for the State by James Wilson printer.


My favorite book is actually a notebook titled, “Record of Proceedings of the Incorporators, Members and Trustees of the Bezaleel Wells Historical and Centennial Society of Steubenville, Ohio,” written beginning in 1893 and continuing forward towards the 1897 Centennial Celebration.


Unfortunately, the notebook contains more blank pages than “filled pages” as if the information continued in another unfound volume.


It is primarily articles of incorporation and by-laws of the historical society and doesn’t contain actual historical information.


This is likely at the law library because one of the people involved in the society is Joseph B. Doyle; a newspaper editor, lawyer, and author of the 1911 county history of Jefferson County.


In his later years, Doyle was a member of the Public Library Board, as well as being the librarian for the law library.


A final book is missing its title page; but research has found it to be a reprint of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and various State Constitutions.  It was printed as a result of the Continental Congress action of 1780 so that all would have access to these early documents.


This book has been republished many times over history, and without the title pages, it will be difficult to determine its real age.


The interesting part of the book is a handwritten note, “Samuel J. Miller’s book – Bot at Auction December 21st, 1829 Price 40 cts.”


I am excited that the library system will be adding these materials to Digital Shoebox for preservation purposes and to allow them to be used by all.