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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.

34 Years Later

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, June 04, 2017

Last week marked 34 years since the day that I became the Director of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.

 

It has been a great adventure for me, and I continue to enjoy every minute that I spend at the helm of this wonderful library system.

 

I actually “started” working about 6 weeks prior to physically being here, as when I was hired by the Library Board, they asked if I would mind answering inquiries from my previous position in northwestern Ohio.

 

The Director, Assistant Director, and Fiscal Officer of the library system had all left their positions and there were some issues that needed attention; and I said I would be pleased to begin the transition from afar.

 

I had served the Delphos Public Library for several years as Director, and many people congratulated me on my move to Steubenville, and wondered if I would meet Bishop Ottenweller who had also left Delphos to come to Steubenville.

 

When I did meet the Bishop, he commented that Delphos had lost both a Priest and a Librarian to Steubenville.

 

Upon my arrival, I found literally boxes and boxes of stuff awaiting the new Director of the library.  Naturally, I was also trying to meet the staff and Board, and learn about the system.

 

There was a larger issue hanging over all Ohio libraries in 1983 that I was keenly aware of from my time at the Delphos Public Library.

 

In 1979, the Ohio Legislature had embarked on an extensive review and study of Ohio’s taxes and what had emerged from that lengthy process were various plans of change to the tax structure of the state.

 

Of concern to public libraries was the repeal of the situs intangibles tax that had funded libraries for 50 years.  It was a locally-collected, state mandated tax on stocks, bonds, and some contracts that was “regressive” in nature; and would be removed and instead added as part of the State Income Tax effective in 1986.

 

The Public Library Fund was established to replace that tax, with a complicated formula of transition and equalization to fund all 251 Public Library Districts in Ohio.

 

A Public Library Study Commission held hearings across the state to gather information and recommend final legislation to be approved in 1985 to make the transition.

 

Local library directors had to prepare and plan their budgets for 1983, 1984, and 1985; particularly the last year, as it would become your base budget years for years to come as the Public Library Fund would assume funding of public libraries.

 

And yes, even in 2017, the year 1985 serves as the base year for every year that followed in library funding.

 

By 1985, we had added telephones to the Tiltonsville, Dillonvale, and Adena libraries and picked up some of the operating costs for the branches in preparation for the base year so that today we have the wonderful branch libraries that we have.

 

I was fortunate to be appointed to the Legislative Committee working on various formulas, so was able to provide input from rural Ohio as libraries blended their needs into the new formula.

 

It was interesting to have Cleveland Public Library, Columbus Metropolitan Library, and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County join with the other 248 Ohio libraries to reach an agreement that would suit all.

 

Other changes were on the horizon included automation and computerization of libraries, and locally the establishment of a “West End Library.”

 

Here we are 30 years later with public libraries that are information centers with thousands of online products and millions of data loads supplementing our traditional books linked together to serve all Ohio citizens.

 

And as I always say, the tools have changed; but the basic reason for a public library remains the same as March 12, 1902 when the Carnegie Library opened its doors.