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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.

Digital Shoebox Upgrade

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, September 4, 2016

The first phase of the upgrade to our online Digital Shoebox is now complete.


Little did we know two years ago, that the computer upgrade of our online system of digital images of books, documents, photos, and other local history materials would be as complex of a process as it turned out to be!


The first step in the upgrade process was moving the database to Columbus to the OCLC systems where it is constantly backed up in case of a system failure.


The second step was to upgrade the operating software of the system.  The good thing was that neither of these steps required any action on the part of local library staff, including me.


The new database and software allows more information to accompany each item, so we did have to then edit and update descriptions some of what dated back 15 years, which is decades in computer software time.


Next came training, and a consultant from Columbus came here for an intense all-day workshop for five of us, to learn the new simpler administrative systems.


I think our Trainer used the word “simpler.”  I tried to sit quietly so as not to draw attention to myself and what my face was showing as I chugged through the workshop.


In the end, I did really understand the process and I managed to edit our entire database over a six-week time period, working on it an hour-a-day or so.


The end product is a database of nearly 100,000 pages of local history, and a file of more than 1,000 images and photographs available at


The great thing is that they are permanently preserved, and the whole system is the 4th largest online digital library in Ohio’s public libraries.


The other great thing is that it is expandable to accommodate up to 160,000 items, and can be further expanded in a simple manner.


Next, we trained the other libraries in the system, including the Belmont County District Library, St. Clairsville Public Library, Washington County Public Library, Caldwell Public Library, Monroe County District Library, Perry County District Library, and the Puskarich Public Library of Cadiz.


Now we have started adding new images and photos to the system, taking photos in our Local History and Genealogy Department and digitizing them into the Shoebox.


We can also digitize photos provided by the public, and return them to the owner.


Some of the new photos in the system include Day’s Store in Steubenville, the 1950 Blizzard, the collapse of Court House roof in 1950,  Frank Smith’s 1930 Chevy, Snellenburg Clothing, and a delightful photo of 600 Market Street about 1939.


I keep looking at the last photo, as I see something new every time I look again.


The photo is taken looking west on Market Street at the railroad crossing.  It is Christmastime as garland extends overhead across the street.


Cars are stopped at the railroad gates, which are operated manually by an employee houses in a little building sitting high on steel I-beams.  An employee of the Pennsylvania Railroad is standing in the middle of the street with a Stop sign.


There is a Rexall Drug Store near the crossing, and visible up the street is Moore Brothers Car Dealership that carries DeSoto and Plymouth cars.


The streetlights on poles are cantilevered to the side of the pole and have Presidential Globes covering the electric bulb.  Signs for US 22 and SR 43 share a light pole.


There is a lot of information from a 75 year old photo, and there is much more to browse, which can be done from your home computer.


There are lots more photos from Mt. Pleasant, Smithfield, Toronto, Richmond, and Bergholz to name only a few area towns.


Check the library website at and see all the information that can be obtained without even coming to the library itself.


Of course, we miss not seeing our customers and hope you will make a library visit