State Library of Ohio History

The State Library was one of the first state agencies created, established in 1817, to serve the information and research needs of state government. As Ohio grew, so did the responsibilities of the agency, including the development of library services throughout Ohio. Below is a timeline of notable events in our history.  An archive of photos and history information is also available at 200th Anniversary of  State Library of Ohio.

A list of the State Librarians of Ohio and a history of the Jeffrey Mining Corporate Center is also available.

Ohio Governor Thomas Worthington 1814-1818

General Assembly of Ohio appropriated $3,500 on December 2, 1816, as a contingency fund for Governor Thomas Worthington.

The governor purchased 509 books on a trip to Pennsylvania with money from the contingency fund.  Governor Worthington presented the collection of books to the General Assembly on December 2, 1817.

Located in the original State Office Building, the library served as a depository for state records, maps, and laws and was open for use by  members of the legislature.

John L. Harper was appointed the first State Librarian. He was paid two dollars per day when the the General Assembly was in session. Harper created the first library catalog (or accession book) on December 25, 1817. Click here to see State Library of Ohio First Accession Book in Ohio Memory

A resolution was passed by the General Assembly on January 17, 1818, accepting the Library and appointing a joint committee from the House of Representatives and the Senate to report rules and regulations. On January 29, 1818, Governor Worthington was charged with the care of  the Ohio State Library, later renamed State Library of Ohio.

John McElvain was appointed State Librarian.

David Solomon Brodrick was appointed State Librarian.

Zachariah Mills was appointed first full-time State Librarian.

The General Assembly passed legislation recognizing the state library as an institution of the State and established an annual $200 salary for a three-year appointment as Librarian.

General Assembly authorized the State Librarian to  enlarge the library by attaching an adjoining room.

The General Assembly passes a law establishing a library board of commissioners, consisting of the Governor, Secretary of State, and the State Librarian.

John B. Greiner became State Librarian.

Elijah Hayward became State Librarian.

Reorganization shortened the librarian’s term to two years and opened the library to the general public for reference.

James W. Taylor became State Librarian.

William T. Coggeshal became State Librarian.

The Library moved to two temporary rooms in the new State House opposite the Treasury in 1856.

The library moved to the Library Hall in the State House.

Law Library collection was separated & became the Supreme Court of Ohio Law Library

Samuel G. Harbaugh became State Librarian.

Walter C. Hood became State Librarian.

Hiram H. Robinson became State Librarian.

Rodney M. Stimson became State Librarian.

Henry V. Kerr became State Librarian.

Joseph H. Geiger became State Librarian.

Howard T. Conard became State Librarian.

Hamilton W. Pierson became State Librarian.

Francis B. Loomis became State Librarian.

John M. Doane became State Librarian.

John C. Tuthill became State Librarian.

Joseph P. Smith became State Librarian.

The Board of Commissioners was abolished and a new Board of Library Commission was created. Members were appointed by the governor, with consent of the senate, for a term of six years. The commission had full authority to manage the library, appoint and remove the state librarian.

With the Governor’s approval, the Board appoints the State Librarian.

The State Library creates a traveling library program. By 1927, the traveling library circulation has grown to 69,850 books.

Charles B. Galbreath began the first of three terms as State Librarian  and ushered the Library into the 20th century.

Rutherford B. Hayes edited the first list of State publications.

Library Development Program began – the position of Library Organizer was created to assist with statewide library development.

Legislative Reference Department was established.

John H. Newman became State Librarian.

Charles B. Galbreath became State Librarian for the second time.

Summer Library School began with State Librarian Charles B. Galbreath serving as secretary.

John H. Newman became State Librarian for the second time.


House Bill 249 repealed section 789 of the General Code.  Section 154-26 abolished the State Board of Library Commissioners, the Librarian appointed by the state board of library commissioners, and the library organizer appointed by the State Board of Library Commissioners.

Section 154-51-154-54 of House Bill 249 created the State Library Board in the Ohio Department of Education with the Director of Education as chairman.*   Four other members of the board would be appointed by the governor for eight year terms.  The State Library Board would appoint and remove the State Librarian. The Board was given the power to make rules for the governance and operation of the State Library. It could organize the Library into departments and determine the number of staff needed. The State Librarian had the power to appoint and remove all heads of departments within the library.  The State Librarian was secretary to the board.

The Department of Education encompassed many other departments at the time and the director sat on many other board of trustees, including other state agency boards, Kent and Bowling Green state normal schools and Ohio state university. This seemed to be a very powerful position.

Herbert S. Hirshberg became State Librarian and was the first professional librarian appointed to head the agency.


Governor Donahey vetoes library appropriations, and on June 20, 1927, the library closes due to lack of funding. In August, the library reopens with a staff of volunteers led by the previous State Librarian, Charles B. Galbreath. Mr. Galbreath and other volunteers work for 11 months before being compensated for their services.

The library officially reopens.
George E. McCormick became State Librarian.

John H. Newman became State Librarian for third time.

The State Library moves into the newly completed Ohio Departments Building, located at 65 South Front Street in downtown Columbus.

State Aid to Public Libraries Law added responsibility for developing county-wide libraries

Paul A. T. Noon became State Librarian

The State Library begins to distribute funds to local libraries and to establish library service in rural areas of the state. $50,000 is appropriated in 1935; by 1952 that amount has doubled to $100,000.00.

Work began on the first union catalog of large public libraries in the country.

Walter T. Brahm became State Librarian.

Library law is codified, setting the course for the library’s current mission. The Library Organizer position evolved into the Library Consultants program.

Seventy of Ohio’s 88 counties have an extension or branch library. The traveling library has evolved into the bookmobile service. In 1953, 53 bookmobiles were are operating in 37 counties.

State Library Board was removed from the Department of Education and became an independent agency authorized by ORC 3375.01

Federal Library Services Act supplied funds for rural library service centers and bookmobile programs.

House Bill 27 granted the authority to distribute Ohio documents to depository libraries.

The Catalog Center opens to provide cataloging and processing services to public, school, academic, special, and institutional libraries.

Subsidy for National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped began


The State Library Board was changed to a five person board, appointed by the state board of education for five year terms.

Shirley Sippola was appointed first director of the Southeastern Ohio Library Center (SEO) Regional Service Center in Caldwell.

With the enactment of U.S. Public Law 87–579, the State Library becomes the regional federal government documents depository for Ohio.

Bookmobile service began in eight counties in Southeast Ohio, with 6557 miles logged the 1st year.

Little Hoover Commission recommended the Library be closed.
Ruth Hess became Acting State Librarian.

Federal Library Services & Construction Act funds allowed renewed library development efforts.

Joseph F. Shubert became State Librarian.

According to the Union Bibliography of Ohio Printed State Documents 1803-1970 : “The name of the library was officially established as The State Library of Ohio in 1967”.

Governor Rhodes signed the Ohio Library Development Plan into law, giving the state library dual responsibility as the reference library for state government and the state agency for the development and coordination of library services statewide.

Talking book machines began using cassette tapes.

Traveling Library program ended.
Microfilm Automated Catalog operations began.

The State Library opens the Tower Library Center in the Rhodes Tower Office Building.

Richard M. Cheski became State Librarian.

Senate Bill 205 granted the authority to distribute legislative publications.

After repeated flooding, SEO moved from Olive Shopping Lane to a space on Marietta Road, which the State Library purchased 11 years later.

The State Library and The Ohio State University Libraries share a computerized catalog.

Distribution of talking book machines was reassigned to the Library.

Four SEO libraries formed a consortium for shared circulation.

SEO became a Talking Book lending agency.

Major renovation & expansion to five floors of the Ohio Departments Building.
Riffe Research Center opens, offering access through an online catalog to over four million titles in the State Library and The Ohio State University libraries.

Library Service for the Blind administrative costs became fully funded by the Library

The State Library of Ohio becomes a founding member of OhioLINK.

Michael S. Lucas became State Librarian.

Federal Library Services & Technology Act was passed.

OPLIN brings Internet connectivity to Ohio’s public libraries.

SEO expanded its services to all Ohio public libraries
Mobile computer training lab went into service
Flooding at SEO caused the destruction of over 7700 books

The State Library ceases operation in the Ohio Departments Building.

The State Library of Ohio reopens for business in the Jeffrey Mining Corporate Center.

Expanded space at SEO was dedicated.
SEO bookmobile service ended

Joanne Budler became State Librarian.

Southeastern Ohio Library (SEO) Center changed its name to SEO Library Center (Serving All Ohioans)

SEO Annex was acquired as a gift of the SOLO Regional Library System

Genealogy collection was transferred to the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

Kent State University School of Library & Information Science Columbus Program relocated to remodeled space in the State Library, the first such partnership since 1889.

State Library set to begin distributing talking book machines with digital technology.

Beverly Cain became State Librarian.


State Library celebrates 200 years of library service to Ohio. A 200th Anniversary State Library of Ohio website was created. The website may be viewed but is no longer interactive or updated.

The Serving Every Ohioan (SEO) Library Center name was changed to Serving Every Ohioan (SEO) Service Center

State Librarian Beverly Cain retired.

State Library building closed for nearly 6 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic with limited number of staff working onsite. Staff continued working remotely.

Wendy Knapp became State Librarian.