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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.

Schiappa Branch Library - 30 years

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 12, 2017

Every Groundhog Day, people across America are tuned to see what the weather forecast will be for the remainder of winter.


I think of Groundhog Day 1987, which was opening day for the Schiappa Branch Library.


This year marked 30 years, hard for me to believe!


The project had its roots in 1964, when the Library Board started a Building Fund to establish a “West End Library” someday.


Numerous plans and discussions took place in the 1960s about what to do to provide library service to the county.


A small addition was made to the Main Library in downtown Steubenville in 1963; but it was viewed as only a temporary measure.


A Wintersville Branch Library existed for a few years in the 1950s, as well as from 1968 until its closure in 1971.


Several locations were reviewed along Sunset Blvd. for rental sites over the years with concern as to whether users could make a left turn --- for how far the nearest traffic light would be from a particular location.


In the 1970s, some federal dollars were available for library construction, and the State Library of Ohio recommended the hiring of a Library Consultant to review the project.


I was hired as the new Library Director in 1983, and the Library Board wanted the new Administrator to a) work on a new West End Library Project, b) monitor and implement the new state funding source for Ohio Public Libraries.


Sounded exciting to that 29 year-old fellow, but I had no idea the complexity of what I had agreed to --- and whether or how all of this would happen and be successful.


Donald C. Potter became our Consultant, and reviewed every scrap of information about Jefferson County regarding library service, particularly the Steubenville metropolitan area.


His conclusion was that the area had what he called, “a split wheel development,” and that largely due to geographic conditions, the downtown area was on the extreme side of the wheel development with growth occurring due west from the downtown instead in concentric rings from the city hub.


The Ohio River blocked easterly development and hills blocked north/south development; so all development (commercial and residential) was due west.


The same thing had happened in a number of river cities up and down the Ohio River, as well as other river systems in the U.S.


A new library should be located in the center of the metropolitan area in conjunction to the only east-west artery, Sunset Blvd./Main Street, since no street grid pattern existed.


From this point, all the pieces to the puzzle fell-in-place with an offer of land on Mall Drive by John & Huberta Siciliano, a federal grant through the State Library of Ohio, a Building Fund, new state funding for public libraries, and a computer system that would tie together both libraries and other branches.


On Feb. 2, 1987, I unlocked the front door and the Schiappa Branch Library began its life which has not passed 30 years.  The first week was a pleasant nightmare, with nearly no books remaining on the shelves after the first week.


A lot has happened in those 30 years.  Two more new branch libraries have been constructed, two branch libraries were moved to renovate buildings, and another branch’s building was renovated.


Technology and computers have transformed the entire library system into a new information center.


All locations play a role in the successful operation of the library system, now providing both traditional paperbound sources as well as online eResources.