Visit to Libraries in Meigs, Gallia, and Jackson Counties

November 6, 2015

On September 15, 2015 I headed to Southeast Ohio to visit libraries located in Meigs, Gallia, and Jackson Counties. I was accompanied by Bill Morris and Julia Ward from the State Librarian’s Office.

Meigs County District Library

State Librarian Beverly Cain and Meigs County District Library Director Kristi Eblin
State Librarian Beverly Cain and Meigs County District Library Director Kristi Eblin

Our first stop was in Meigs County, where we visited the Pomeroy Library, which is part of the Meigs County District Library. Library Director Kristi Eblin led us on a tour of the library, which is currently undergoing renovations. The renovations, the library’s first since 2002, are expected to be completed in Spring 2016 and include expanding the children’s area, providing more seating space throughout the library, and expanding meeting room space. This building, which was formerly a bank, has been home to the library since 1989.

We learned that the libraries in Pomeroy and Middleport started offering the Book a Bike program in August. Each of these libraries has 5 bikes that are available for library patrons to check-out and explore local bike paths. The service is made possible through a partnership with the Meigs County Health Department.

Kristi Eblin has been Director of the Meigs County District Library since 1997. The library system has a total of 23 staff and serves all of Meigs County through four locations in Pomeroy, Racine, Middleport, and the Eastern Library in Reedsville. The Meigs County District Library is a founding member of the Ohio Valley Library Consortium, a shared automation system providing library patrons with access to materials held in seven library systems.

We appreciated having the opportunity to meet with Kristi and her staff and learn about the changes that are taking place at the library. We look forward to visiting again to see the Pomeroy Library once renovations are complete.
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Dr. Samuel L. Bossard Memorial Library

Samuel Bossard Memorial Library – Gallia County
The Riverside Room features a mural depicting important people and events in the history of the Bossard Memorial Library.

From Pomeroy we traveled to Gallipolis to visit the Dr. Samuel L. Bossard Memorial Library. The first thing we noticed upon arrival was the large LED sign at the corner of the parking lot, welcoming us to the library. The second thing we noticed was the activity taking place outside the library as a large landscaping project was underway. The project began on Labor Day and was being done cooperatively between Oakland Nursery in Columbus and a local landscaping company. Oakland Nursery designed the plan and the local company is implementing the design by providing the plants and doing the actual planting. The library’s goal is to make its exterior space just as inviting as its interior space. In addition to the beautiful new landscaping, the library’s exterior space includes a seating area that provides Wi-Fi access as well as P-dock stations that allow patrons to plug in laptops, phones, and other mobile devices.

The inside of the library is very open and inviting and offers collections for all ages including a robust Local History Room, which has local newspapers on microfilm dating back to 1819, as well as many other materials related to the people and history of Gallia County. The 17,000+ square foot library also boasts a quiet reading room, a meeting room, the O. O. McIntyre Reading Room, and a beautiful children’s area. The newest addition to the library, just opened in March, is the Riverside Room, which provides a wonderful space for the library’s program offerings such as the Breakfast with Snoopy Program, which was attended by 200 people. Music programs, plays, and many other activities have also taken place in the Riverside Room. The library also has a very active outreach program featuring many offsite programs and delivery to approximately 36 homebound individuals. The Bossard Library participates in the Ohio Digital Library and patrons are very happy with the service, especially the new magazine offerings.  The library began offering Gale Courses earlier this year using grant funding. These courses have been so successful that the library plans fund the service on its own after the grant expires.

Library service in Gallipolis has a rich history beginning when the Thursday Club, a “group of women bound together for study and literary reviews,” founded and sponsored the first library in Gallipolis. The Gallipolis Public Library first opened its doors on November 1, 1898. The Gallipolis Public Library moved into a new Carnegie Library in 1905. The library moved to its current location in 1978. Dr. Samuel L. Bossard, an Army physician, donated the building, a former warehouse, to the library and the library was named in his honor. The library was renovated in 1991 and was renovated again this year

Debbie Saunders has directed the library since 2008, although her history with the library goes back much farther than that. She started working at the library as a Page when she was in high school. After earning her accounting degree, she joined the library’s fiscal services department and worked in several positions before becoming Director.

Bill, Julia, and I are very grateful to Debbie and her staff for taking the time to help us learn more about the Dr. Samuel L. Bossard Memorial Library and the programs and services it provides to the community.
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Oak Hill Public Library

Oak Hill Library
The Oak Hill Library walls are filled with works by local artists

We spent the night in Gallipolis and headed to Jackson County the next morning. Our first visit of the day was at the Oak Hill Public Library. I had visited the Oak Hill Library when I was the Director of the Portsmouth Public Library but this was my first visit to the new Oak Hill Public Library. This beautiful 4800 square foot library was built in 2004 and provides residents of the Oak Hill community with significantly more space for seating, computers, programs and materials. The library has a staff of 7. Computer tech support is provided by staff from the local schools.

Peggy Johnson, who has directed the Oak Hill Library since 2005, provided us a tour of the library, which is currently beautifully decorated with fall items. The library provides seating and space for adult materials, and a Kid’s Corner to house the children’s collections as well as proving space for programs. There is also a Genealogy Room, which is very popular with patrons who are researching their family histories. The library is also home to Squirtle, a Peninsula Cooter Turtle.

At the conclusion of our tour, we had the opportunity to talk with Peggy and two of her Board members: Lois Dunn, President and Sharon Needham, Vice President. Lois is the former director of the Oak Hill Public Library. They kindly provided us with refreshments and more information about the library.

We learned that joining the Ohio Valley Library Consortium has been very beneficial to the library because it allows them to provide their patrons with access to many more materials than they could purchase on their own. The library has also benefitted from its membership in the Southeast Ohio Regional Library System (SERLS) in many ways such as utilizing the SERLS laptop lab for computer training, continuing education for library staff, and the opportunity to network with other library directors in the region.

We also learned that the Oak Hill Public Library has a very active Teen Advisory Board consisting of about 18 teen and pre-teen students from the area. Members of the Teen Advisory Board earn community service hours to help meet school requirements and help the library in a variety of ways. One way is helping the library prepare for and host its annual Haunted Library Program that will take place in October.

We appreciate the time Peggy, Lois, Sharon and the library staff spent with us and we enjoyed the opportunity to see and learn more about the Oak Hill Public Library.
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Jackson City Library

State Librarian Beverly Cain and Jackson City Library Director Laura Thorne
State Librarian Beverly Cain and Jackson City Library Director Laura Thorne with the Fletcher Benton sculpture, Folded Circle Ring for Mary

Our next destination was the Jackson City Library, directed by Laura Thorne. The Jackson City Library provides library programs and services to the residents of the Jackson City School District through the library, located near downtown, and a robust outreach program. Our visit began with lunch at the Tea Caddy, a tea room and gift shop just a short walk from the library. We were accompanied by library director Laura Thorne, youth services librarian Sharon Leali, and Chucky, a 10-month-old puppy that is training to be a service dog. Conversation over lunch provided us with a lot of information about the library.

The library provides a number of programs each month for library patrons of all ages. There are regular storytime programs for toddlers and preschoolers, a book club for adults, and a Teen Advisory Board for teens. The library is working to expand its roster of adult programs and recently hosted a program by Karen Harper, bestselling author of historical fiction and contemporary fiction including several contemporary suspense novels based in Ohio’s Amish country.

American sculptor and painter Fletcher Benton was born in Jackson and the Jackson Library maintains a comprehensive collection of books by and about the artist. The library is also home to one of Benton’s bronze sculptures, Folded Circle Ring for Mary. If you are a Benton enthusiast, you can see more of his work in the Lillian E. Jones Museum, located just up the street from the library.

The Jackson City Library is a two-year participant of Guiding Ohio Online and it’s been very successful for them. We were able to meet Jackson’s Guiding Ohio Online instructor, Americorps member Jim Whisler, during our visit.
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Sylvester Memorial Wellston Public Library

Sylvester Memorial Wellston Public Library
Sylvester Memorial Wellston Public Library children’s room

We left Jackson and headed to Wellston for our last visit of the day: the Sylvester Memorial Wellston Public Library. The library was founded in 1928 by school superintendent W.G. Scarberry and the current library’s namesake, John E. Sylvester, publisher and editor of the Wellston Telegram. The original library was located in the high school and remained there until 1936, when it moved to the City Building. Heirs of the Sylvester family made the land at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Second Street, the former John E. Sylvester residence, available for the library to purchase. The library purchased the site in 1966 and was awarded an LSCA grant from the State Library of Ohio to construct a new library in 1967. The new library was dedicated as the Sylvester Memorial Library on October 27, 1968. The library has stood in the same location since then although it has been expanded and renovated several times over the years.

Karen Davis has been Director of the Sylvester Memorial Wellston Public Library since 2010, although she’s been with the library much longer than that and served as Assistant Director prior to her appointment as Director.

In addition to collections of print and AV materials for adults, teens, and children, the library offers a Genealogy Room for those who are interested in tracing their family histories or learning more about the history of Wellston. The library also has a reference room that is used for quiet reading and studying. It is also used for homeschool testing.

The library found that its meeting room was underutilized while the children’s area was bursting at the seams. The meeting room was eliminated to provide much needed space for the children’s department, which is now a larger, inviting space where children can read, learn, and play. The children’s librarian, Vickie Stephenson, was honored this past summer by the Wellston Chamber of Commerce as its Person of the Year.

The library has a very active teen group that currently has about 20 members. The teens make holiday cards that they deliver to residents of area nursing homes. The teens also help plan and host a Spring Tea Party with an Alice in Wonderland theme for 6 to 9 year-olds. They also participate in a clean-up initiative called Making Wellston Beautiful.

Bill, Julia, and I appreciated the opportunity to chat with Karen and two of her library board members, David Massie and Donna Summers, over refreshments so that we could learn more about the library and the community.
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