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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.

National Library Week & Ohio Library Legislative Day

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, April 22, 2018

National Library Week is celebrated each April to honor America’s libraries and librarians and the contribution that both make to society.


This year marks the 60th anniversary of the event developed by the American Library Association.  It coincided with Ohio’s Legislative Day held each year in Columbus to promote Ohio’s libraries to the State Legislature.


Ohio’s public libraries lead the nation in usage per capita, with the 9,000 librarians working in Ohio’s 251 public library districts checking out 200 million items to Ohio citizens.


Our nation’s first public libraries are credited to New England, and to Ben Franklin who helped establish libraries open to all.


In Ohio, the first libraries were the Belpre Farmer’s Library and the Coonskin Library that were assembled by area residents to have books to share with the new settlers of the Northwest Territory.


A subscription library was documented in Steubenville in 1815 in a local Pharmacy.


In Ohio, the first legislation allowing the incorporation of public libraries was approved in 1817, with funding of such libraries enacted in 1853 and 1869.


An office for library development at the State Library of Ohio was established in 1906 to aid with library funding being provided by Andrew Carnegie and various local citizens.


Local funding of libraries changed in 1933 as an intangibles tax was established for the specific cause of library funding.


That funding was repealed in 1985 and changed to a dedicated fund of state government called the Public Library Fund.


The Ohio Library Council established an annual Legislative Day to keep state officials apprised of Ohio’s libraries and their funding from PLF.


Like other local governments in Ohio, libraries were cut by 34 percent in 2009 and we forced to ask voters in their local service areas for supplemental tax levies to fund public libraries.


So today, our own Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County receives 2/3 of its funding from the State of Ohio, and 1/3 from a countywide property levy.


This year’s National Library Week and Ohio Legislative Day promoted “Libraries Lead” to demonstrate that public libraries have changed to today’s information leader through the traditional books as well as online data systems.


Public libraries still checkout a lot of books, but we also provide online systems and eBooks to the public.


Our library system provided 1,500,000 items to the public last year, and I needed to express that to our legislators.


This marked the 41st year that I have gone to Columbus for Legislative Day, and it has certainly changed over that time.


The Ohio Statehouse has certainly changed, with representatives moved to the Riffe Center for offices rather that the odd, tiny offices jammed into the corners of the Statehouse that they occupied before 1991.


State Senators now occupy the annex building, which before 1997, was a sad place with drop ceilings and lights hanging on chains separated by portable walls.


Our workshops were held at the Neil House Hotel, long-since replaced by the Huntington Center with new meeting room facilities.


It is all part of the process of supporting Ohio’s public libraries, and providing services to Ohio’s citizens.