A year of budgeting and planning

We are to the end of 2017, and as the administrator of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, I am always evaluating where we have been as a local government entity and where we will be going in the upcoming year.

2017 was a budget year for the state of Ohio, so anyone associated with a government entity funded by the state participated in the state budget process this past year.

Like all 251 public library systems in Ohio, we receive about two-thirds of our funding from the state through the Public Library Fund.

Each budgetary year we work with our local legislators to explain the role of public libraries to Ohio’s citizens.

For the past three budgetary cycles, libraries have managed to remain “stable” in PLF funding, but libraries must continue to work with the Legislature and governor to provide library service to Ohioans.

The story of a public library in the 21st century is one of growth and activity in new ways using the same basic premise of operations while incorporating new tools of technology to provide information to the public.

At one time, the public library was the place to get books. Today it is still that place, but has expanded its horizons with all sorts of new technology and information sources.

While the actual statistics are yet to be counted, I foresee 2017 as the first year that more than a million items were provided by your public library system.

Snippets of statistics sneak into the librarian’s computer as the year goes by, and I have seen large numbers of computer sign-ons, downloads and check-out numbers well past the old days of writing your name on a card to borrow a book.

Coming to the library to use the Internet on a computer or through your device and Wi-Fi is commonplace; and logons from home and the office keep the library buzzing.

Yes, people still use books, but they also use eBooks, which also are available through the library system.

We are seeing school students return to public libraries as some school systems have eliminated their libraries in a misguided belief that everything you need is somewhere on the Internet.

2017 has been the climax of the planning and implementation of our main library renovation and construction project to finally make the facility ADA accessible.

It didn’t move along as quickly as I had hoped, but we are ready to sign contracts and start work in January.

We have found that people are using alternative locations with the main library closed, as the branches have increased in use as well as the Bookmobile.

Any library building project seems to advertise library service and results in growth in library usage when the renovated/new facility opens.

It is interesting to see that younger people using the library don’t seem to know where our library locations are situated; they are simply using e-mail, messaging or phone to contact a library.

With the main library closed, the calls are forwarded to the Schiappa branch for answering and the individual doesn’t seem to know one location from another. They look up the library on Google and simply call the number.

We have received calls for the Henderson Library in Jefferson, Ohio, when someone confuses Jefferson County for the city in Northeast Ohio.

I also point out that our library system is number 35 in size out of the 251 systems in Ohio. We are the largest public library system on the Ohio River between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

If that seems hard to imagine, realize that Ohio has a long history of branch library development, and comparing the cities of Steubenville, Martins Ferry, Marietta and Portsmouth will find library systems with four to six branches within the county compared with our neighbors in West Virginia or Kentucky.

So here we are moving into 2018, which will be my last full year of directing our library system. I would like 2018 to be a year of celebration of what a great system we have as I move toward the conclusion of my 45-year library career.

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