A new chapter: Library reopens today

OPEN AGAIN — Among those celebrating the renovation of the main branch of the Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County during Monday’s ribbon-cutting event were, from left, Maddalena Repella, board president; Bob DiBenedetto, building and grounds supervisor; Alan Hall, former director; Mike Gray, director; Clayrne Berman, former trustee; and trustees Virginia Mascio, Paul Brandt, Lorie Sullivan and Stan Gaston. The main library had been closed 549 days while undergoing $4 million in improvements. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — Local leaders got their first look inside the main branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County’s new, nearly $4 million addition during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday.

The library, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, officially reopened at 9 a.m. today.

“Its closing affected the downtown community greatly,” library Director Mike Gray said. “We hope that our customers find our efforts worthy of the time and expense. We think we have built something wonderful.”

The addition makes the downtown library ADA-compliant, the last public library in Ohio to come into compliance. It includes a two-story, 10,000-square-foot addition at the rear of the original library, which dates back to 1902. The addition houses study rooms and a community room as well as an elevator.

Patrons now enter the library at ground level from Slack Street.

Gray told the crowd former library Director Alan Hall, who retired in March after 36 years on the job, “deserves our thanks for his vision, courage and leadership in this building project.”

“This beautiful building represents the crowning achievement in your career, and you should be proud,” Gray said. “It has been an honor serving with you.”

Mayor Jerry Brailla said it was a “great day for Steubenville,” recalling how when he was on the board, “we looked at switch-back ramps” as a way to make the library handicap accessible.

“From that to this is phenomenal,” Barilla said.“I just can’t get over it.”

Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Graham said it was “unbelievable” what the library board and staff had accomplished.

“Levy money couldn’t be used,” Graham said. “The money had to be budgeted — over the years the board was able to put money aside to be able to do this.”

“This is an investment in cultural capital,” he added. “People being able to read and gain knowledge, it’s the best way.”

Gray said employees at the library, located at 407 S. Fourth St., are excited about being able to once again welcome patrons.

“I can’t wait to get customers in here,” Gray said. “Our customers have been going to our other branches, but they’re all excited to come back, and we’re so excited to have them back.”