Reviewing library projects of years gone by

During the past two weeks, I have been reviewing the projects that were assigned to me when I was hired by the library board in 1983.

The new state funding that started in 1986 and the West End library were the two items specifically listed as important tasks for me to undertake, as well as general administration of the library system which had been without a director for months.

During my introduction to staff and tours of the libraries, I noticed another item that was somewhat concerning to me.

I asked the reference staff about the local history collection, which I assumed would be critical to this library system, given the early development of the area.

I was taken up the stairs at the main library to the balcony area and two shelves were identified as the local history collection.

Before me was a sad collection of books, paper files and unknown file boxes of “things” in addition to yellowed newspapers.

Much of it wasn’t cataloged and seemed to have no library labels. I commented that I was handy with book repair, and perhaps we could work on the collection.

It was then that I was introduced to A. Eileen Cozart, Ph.D. who was sitting at a microfilm reader carefully examining articles on the newspaper from the 19th century.

She became a good friend to me and my family, and monitored by son’s admission to Ohio State University. She also had good advice on what to do with the local history collection.

Cozart was in charge of Jefferson County’s bicentennial activities in 1976 and wrote an article for the Herald-Star newspaper based on articles from the paper of days-gone-by.

At the same time, Judy Dobzynski worked at the main library, noticed my interest in local history and offered to spend some time working with the collection.

As the West End library project moved forward, Judy and I pondered about moving the local history collection to that location, where it would be accessible to the public and better managed.

Cozart wasn’t excited about the move, but since she basically only used the newspaper microfilm she was accommodated until, due to health reasons, could no longer come to the library to write her article.

Dobzynski moved to the Schiappa branch when it opened to be with the local history collection and spent time locating resources for it, as well as developing new items from a variety of resources.

After her untimely death in 1994, the local history collection was managed by Sandy Day, who had been hired to continue the collection’s development and continued Dobzynski’s work by indexing, editing and compiling anything that would assist local research.

For the next 20 years, Day continued the work of research and development creating a collection that had grown to more 6,000 items.

The Digital Shoebox Project was started in 2003 by 10 area public libraries to establish a digitized collection of materials. When the regional library system closed in 2006, our library system assumed ownership and served as the administrative structure of the eight public libraries that continues to operate the online system.

Our library system has 85 percent of the holdings of the Digital Shoebox and allows people from around the world to access local holdings for genealogical research and local history.

Erica Grubbs replaced Day upon her retirement, and continues growing the local history collection in much the same way as her predecessors working with a growing file of more than 2,000 historic images on Digital Shoebox.

I would like to express a tremendous pride in all the work performed by the many people who have been involved in our local history and genealogy department called the Ohio Collection at our Schiappa branch.

It is truly a collective effort of assembling materials of all types relating to Jefferson County and the surrounding areas that will be useful to people worldwide.

It will be interesting to see the collection 30 years from now — and determine the impact to a future generation.

(Hall, a resident of Steubenville, is assistant director of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.)


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