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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.

Mildred W. Sandoe, Library Organizer

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 02, 2017

 

In 1923, Ohio had 197 Public Library Districts serving the citizens of our state.

 

Many of those libraries were a product of the generosity of Andrew Carnegie during his philanthropic period of 1899-1919 while others were more than a century old and developed by many different sources.

 

In the 1920s, Ohio’s public libraries were experiencing severe financial troubles due to limitation placed on property taxes in 1921 causing reductions in service and complete closures in a few cases.

 

Our library closed in the winter of 1924 because coal couldn’t be afforded for the boiler.  Lights were turned on when someone really needed illumination.

 

Another limitation on taxes caused cities, school districts, townships, and counties all which funded libraries to curtail operating expenses and libraries closed.

 

In 1933, then-State Senators Robert A. Taft and Frank E. Whittemore introduced legislation that any public library that made it services available to all residents of their county will be funded by the new intangibles tax collected on the local level and state mandated.

 

The State Library of Ohio assigned several staff to the position of “library organizer” due to the change taking place all across Ohio in libraries.

 

Jefferson County was assigned Mildred W. Sandoe, a 35 year-old librarian who had just completed assignments at libraries in Dayton, Grandview Heights, and Mansfield.

 

The “Carnegie Library of Steubenville” added “and Jefferson County” on Jan. 1, 1936, and a new library system was established serving the whole county.

 

Miss Sandoe found the library here “terribly understaffed with an inadequate book collection,” with many volumes so worn out they should be thrown away.

 

WPA workers were gathered and spent the week at the library scrubbing walls and floors, and repaired the roof.

 

The staff consisted of Elinor Neidengard as the chief librarian, and Dorothy Speaks, Marjorie Shannon, Leona Speaks as assistants, and John Williams as the custodian.

 

The $ 6,100 annual budget of 1933 would grow to $ 38,000 in 1939 as the Library System began expanding with Branch Libraries across the county under the new format.

 

Miss Sandoe recommended that smoking, chewing, and eating be prohibited in the library and a sanitary drinking fountain be installed.  The use of fountain pens should be eliminated with scrap paper provided to the public.

 

The 1902 building was reorganized to allow space to handle books going out in the county, and she ordered that lights be left on when the library is open.

 

From 1935 to 1940, Mildred W. Sandoe criss-crossed Ohio visiting nearly every library in the state to assist as libraries extended services countywide. 

 

In 1942, she authored the book “County Library Primer” which was the story of her years of library organizing in Ohio --- a book that is the backbone of library service and still used across the U.S. even today.

 

Our famous library organizer went on to be President of the Public Library Association in 1955-1956, and performed a state-wide study of library services in New Jersey in 1964.

 

She was named to the Ohio Library Hall of Fame in 1972 and was a popular speaker to library groups in her retirement.

 

Mildred W. Sandoe was a good friend of author Helen Hooven Santmyer, who she had first met years before as they were both working at the Dayton Library.

 

In 1984, Miss Sandoe urged her friend to publish a book written years before following some editing; so “And Ladies of the Club…” was produced by the OSU Press in a small quantity.

 

Shortly thereafter, the book was selected to be the Book-of-the-Month-Club selection and a bestseller was born.

 

Miss Santmyer died in 1986 in a Xenia, Ohio Nursing Home followed by her friend, Mildred W. Sandoe in 1994, still known as one of the most remembered library organizers in Ohio.

 

She is remembered on the State Library of Ohio’s 200th Anniversary Web Page, her hands remain on our own Library System even today.