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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.

Phrases of the Director

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, October 8, 2017


When you have directed an institution for 35 years, the staff will remember phrases and comments that you make from time to time.


One of my most common observations relates to things that I have to do as an administrator that I don’t think relates to my sole purpose; “All I want to do is pass out a few books.”


Several staff have repeated this phrase back to me in recent years, and I must confess that it sounds like something a librarian might have said years ago.


Actually, I invented that phrase over 40 years ago at another library I directed at that time, and it related to a now-defunct State Agency that sent out a lengthy questionnaire distributed to all Ohio public libraries.


This was before the Internet, so I received a thick manila envelope in the mail addressed to the Director of said library, wanting this questionnaire on legal-sized paper to be completed immediately and returned by mail (at our expense).


A quick glance revealed that this agency had no idea what a public library did, nor the laws governing it, nor how a public library is funded.


I worked on the document on and off for a couple weeks, watching the approaching due date, and finally finished the questionnaire and returned it.


Better to do it than not was my thinking, but I answered a lot of questions with “N/A Not Applicable” or I made a small notation as to why the question wasn’t relevant to a public library.


Well, about a month later, I received a phone call from said agency stating that my questionnaire was “insufficient” and I would have to redo it.


Rather than argue, I simply said, “All I want to do is pass out a few books,” and your questionnaire is irrelevant and is taking time away from my basic job.


Dead silence enveloped the phone, and finally a sheepish voice said, “Well, then, that’s okay we will just put this in our file for future reference,” followed by a pleasant good-bye.


Since then, I have used my phrase from time to time, but it has never worked so well as 40 years ago and I am usually stuck doing whatever has been requested.


My other famous phrase actually has more relevance today than when I first said it years ago.


“I am pleased with whatever library door you enter.”  This means that you can use any of our system libraries, or actually I am pleased that you will use any library that is convenient to you.


Today that “door” could be a website, an eBook, an online system, including the door of one of our 8 locations since we are all linked together.


A librarian is pleased that you are using a library and hope you will choose our local public library as your information source.


Over the years, people are apologetic when saying to me that they use this library or that, and not our own library system; and they are surprised that I am not angry but rather pleased that they use some library.


The former Director of the St. Clairsville Public Library used to exchange stories with me about a person from Steubenville who worked in Belmont County and used their library and just loved it.


We chuckled because I had a similar story reversed, and their person loved our library and its collection better --- until one day a book they requested arrived from St. Clairsville for them. 


If they had been in their own home library, the book would have been there.


“I am pleased with whatever library door you enter.”


I have been thinking of this as we plan for the closure of our own Main Library building later this month to accommodate the construction work.


We have added more library doors for you to enter with the closure of the venerable old Main Library including our Bookmobile on Wednesdays, any of our other 6 locations, and a whole new vista of online resources.


Hoopla and Flipster and lots of weird-sounding database names, and new E-Cards for county high school students to access all of the resources online that you don’t have to worry about returning are part of our library system today.


Just keep focused on late 2018 when you can physically return to the old Main Library, now fully accessible for the first time in its 115 year history.