Memories found in office cleaning

I have started the process of cleaning out my office in preparation for the building renovation of the main library.

Everything will have to be boxed up for storage or moved to a location where it can be accessed if needed.

Over my 40 years as a librarian, I have seen many library directors’ offices in Ohio’s libraries, particularly during the time I served as a state library association official and traveled throughout Ohio.

Each office is different. Some are tiny, others quite spacious; but all are filled with mementoes about the library and its history.

Of course, it is common to find books on a shelf that somehow relate to that particular library, or perhaps simply an interesting old book or two that a librarian can’t toss in a recycling bin.

My 34 years here has certainly brought an accumulation of stuff, and I admit that my housecleaning is moving slowly as I relive the story of every item.

I have Volume 2 of the “Account of the Life of Adam Clarke” published in 1833, given to me about 30 years ago by an elderly gentleman who was sure his wife would throw it away when he died.

Its condition is poor at best, but the pages are on rag content and fairly legible given its age.

“Reformed Presbyterians” has a similar history, but both 1837 volumes are present and are in excellent condition in both binding and test.

“Under the Greenwood Tree” by Thomas Hardy was saved for a completely different reason — it was signed by Beatrice Kelly, a librarian from the 1920s.

I seem to have other little items that belonged to previous library directors, including a checkout card signed by David Griffith and a tea cup used by Mary Ellen Kovalan.

I wonder what I should plant in the collection that belongs to me so that a future library director can moan over more stuff piled on a shelf.

“Goody Two Shoes” is a delightful 1930 school book by Oliver Goldsmith that shows its age and use poorly, but earned a spot on my shelf.

I also have several of Doyle’s 20th Century History of Steubenville & Jefferson County, published in 1912 — some that were in a box of book donations at some point in time. They are in various conditions from prime shape to a handful of crumbled paper and each has a story.

The handful of crumbled pages came from the Carolinas several years ago following a phone call from a person wanting to “sell” us this archival book that “surely has local history interest.”

I thanked them but said we had multiple copies in our library system, including several reprint copies that have the added index, so another copy of Doyle’s wasn’t needed.

About three months later, a box arrived at the library with a note saying they were donating the book because they found there was no market for Doyle’s history. Inside were 1,200 pages of a Doyle’s history with no outside cover that had probably been stored in an attic for most of its life as the pages were crumbling.

As a librarian, I felt it was my duty to try and save whatever I could — but only the heavy pages with photos were eligible. Now I will put those in a file for possible use someday.

Yet perhaps the award for the strangest book on my office shelves goes to “The Seaweeds of the Tsitsikama Coastal National Park” by Dr. S.C. Seagrief, which was in a box of donations and was flagged by one of our staff as the “least likely book to ever be requested.”

Maybe the new library director’s office will have a better place to display these treasures for future librarians to enjoy.

(Hall is director of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.)

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