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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.

2018 at the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, January 7, 2018


The 116th year of operations for the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County is now underway, and it is time to see what the New Year will bring to the library system.


It is actually 203 years since the first library appeared in our area, a subscription library supported by members paying dues.


The first publicly-supported library began in 1848, and came and went under various agencies until the Carnegie Library opened in 1902 with a public board of trustees.


The selection of new materials for the public library’s collection is similar today in many of the same ways as in 1902.


Reviews are read by librarians to pick new items for the collection, as well as suggestions from the public, and items are ordered for the library collection.


In 1902, new books in wooden barrels arrived by train from New York City.  In 2018, new books arrive by delivery services.


What has changed is the acquisition of reference books, which has nearly disappeared as books in paper format have given way to online databases.


The advantage is that our whole library system and its users can access these databases; the disadvantage is that they cost more than the books they replaced and you have to keep subscribing to them to retain the collection.


I have a list of potential new databases for 2018, but will need to evaluate each one for use and cost and what connection ability the service provides.


The databases provide a tremendous amount of information for public access, and most can be accessed from home.


Public libraries in 2018 operate with online Internet resources, and we have done so for nearly 30 years.  2018 will bring some new equipment to our system.


We receive E-Rate funds for schools and libraries and 2018 is the year we are supposed to receive Level 2 funding to replace a lot of the routers and servers in our system.


Each year we replace some of the computers in our system on a rotation, as well.


This is also the year that our fiber optic network will see increased speed as we move into a new contract.


Line speed has been an interesting project over the years, and I found that our Adena and Toronto Branches are a challenge to provide with Internet service.


Adena was finally upgraded to faster service last year with the assistance of the Ohio Public Library Information Network providing the expertise.


Toronto was upgraded by bouncing the signal to a W.Va. hilltop, then back into Ohio joining our other locations on fiber optic to the trunk line to Columbus.


Ellen Summers Wilson, our first librarian in 1902, never dealt with fiber optic lines, but did have early telephone service into the Carnegie Library --- quite something for that era.


We have retained telephone land lines at the library over Voice-Over IP primarily due to the quality of the service and the ability to fax and scan information and send data.


In particular, our fax service has been growing in usage at the library, because of our land lines and the ability to fax multiple pages of information for the public.


Of course, the major event of 2018 will be the renovation and construction work that will take place at the Main Library.


For the first time in 116 years, the library will become accessible to everyone with a new street-level entrance and elevator, and the entire building reworked for the 21st century.