A More Complete History
Libraries in East Liverpool Prior to 1900
There were two attempts to bring libraries to the community of East Liverpool in the 1800's, one was successful the other was not.
Will Thompson, famous songwriter, owned a music store in East Liverpool, now the Pottery City Galleries, and decided to open a reading room where the young men of the community could congregate. It was opened February 1, 1888, in a large room of the Thompson Music Store. It was well stocked with local newspapers and journals and became known as Philharmonic Hall. The project would probably have been successful but a group of businessmen decided to take over the project and charge dues ($1.00 per year) to members. Will Thompson insisted that the room was rent free and that he would not charge for heating or electricity. He stipulated that all the money was to be channeled back into more reading materials. The reading room was opened to the public, "subject to reasonable limitations, seasonable hours and good behavior." Due to a classic case of "too many cooks" the project only lasted for about a year.
In 1896 the Trades and Labor Council rented a room from the same Will Thompson which would serve as a library. J. J. Weisand, Charles J. Miles and H. E. Porter were this libraries commission. It had 2,500 volumes and periodicals.
Andrew Carnegie Contacted
In the Spring of 1899 T.Y. Travis and M.E. Miskall quietly wrote to the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who had spent many summers in East Liverpool with relatives, asking him for a donation of a library for East Liverpool. On July 15, 1899 the East Liverpool Review ran an announcement in its paper that Andrew Carnegie sent a letter on June 30th stating that he would donate $50,000 for the building of a library, providing that the city would provide the lot and $3,000 a year for maintenance of the library. This was the first that the public had learned of any possibility for a permanent library. East Liverpool and Steubenville were the first communities in Ohio to receive donations for libraries from Carnegie because he had lived in or visited relatives who lived in them.
There was a law that gave the city the authority to levy a tax of one mil to establish a library. The property value in East Liverpool at the time was over $3,000,000. This gave them the maintenance money for the library. The Board of Education also donated $800 per year.
In August 1899 the Bradshaw Farm property was advertised for public sale. Twenty men each advancing $1,000 purchased the property for $20,000 with it to be held in trust until the city could purchase it.
In November 1899 5 men went to Pittsburgh to see Andrew Carnegie and accept his offer and report that they had purchased property and secured the maintenance of the library once built.
Construction of the Library
In 1899, following a visit by Andrew Carnegie and his donation for the building of the library, a Library Commission consisting of six leading city citizens was appointed.
The original commission consisted of Colonel J.N. Taylor, George Peach, G.P. Ikirt, F.D. Kitchel, J.H. Brookes and W.L. Smith. After the commission was appointed the library was almost a memory before it was started. There was public outcry over the members of the commission. No one involved in the planning or efforts to get the library were on the commission; in fact two members of the commission were opposed to the project, J.H. Brookes and Colonel John N. Taylor. The nest day at a meeting of council it was proposed that the property be divided into lots and sold, but at the next meeting F.D. Kitchel resigned and Attorney T.Y. Travis, who had helped send the letter to Carnegie, was appointed. This allowed the climate to settle and the process proceeded to the next step.
Plans were submitted for the building from many sources and some were favored more than others. Rumor was that the plans of a Mr. Ousley of Youngstown would be chosen because of who he knew on the commission. It was therefore decided to number the plans and vote not knowing who the plans were submitted by. The vote was 3-2 in favor of a plan submitted by A. W. Scott of East Liverpool. Colonel Taylor, who had wanted the Ousley plan, resigned over the vote. Will L. Thompson was appointed in his place on the commission. The contract was given to Harvey McHenry.
Construction began in 1900. The two story building is very ornate and still holds its beauty today. It is a focal point of the East Liverpool downtown area. It was built of Roman mottled buff-brown brick trimmed with white tile. There were 21 rooms not including the vestibule (entryway) or dome. Milligan Hardware furnished the plumbing, electrical, tile, marble and ironwork (including the stairs), the lobby of ceramic mosaic, the wainscoting of Italian marble and the solid brass hardware. Lewis Brothers provided the furniture for the reading rooms, including 28 tables, 14 dozen chairs, shelving for 5,000 to 6,000 books, several dozen chandeliers fitted for both gas and electric light. A large chandelier hung from the upper ceiling and was fitted with 12 electric lights with room for candles between.
John J. Purinton and Thomas Collins were appointed to the commission filling the expired terms of J. H. Brookes and G.P. Ikirt.
Staffing and Stocking the Library
As the library neared completion donations of good, worthwhile books were requested.
The first librarian hired to run the library was Gertrude A. Baker of Mt. Vernon, Ohio, a graduate of a preparatory school in Los Angeles, California and a library course in Albany, New York. At the time of her hiring she was the editor of the "Cumulative Index". Mr. & Mrs. William Streets were hired as custodians and would reside in quarters provided in the building. When the library opened Mary A. Hall was appointed assistant.
Dedication and Opening
On May 8, 1902 at 3pm in the afternoon the library was dedicated and officially opened to the public. At this time the 2,505 volumes from the other city library were transferred to the Carnegie Library.
The following is an excerpt from "The Reviewing Stand" an article in the Review of Saturday May 7, 1932 by Tom Jones. Taken from transcripts of the original dedicatory event.
"With a throng in attendance at the designated hour of 3 o'clock the structure and its contents were then turned over to Mayor William C. Davidson by John J. Purinton, a member of the board of directors of the library. Previously what composed the former library that had functioned in the city had been transferred by D.M. McLane to Mr. Purinton.
Interspersed with special music addresses were made by these three men and W.E. Wells and Professor R.E. Rayman, then superintendent of the East Liverpool Schools. The meeting at the outset had been called to order by George Peach, president of the board of directors of the institution. He presented Dr. J.G. Taggart. pastor of the First United Presbyterian Church, who made the prayer preceding the formal program that had been prepared.
Mayor Davidson in a brief address, expressed the hope that the institution would meet all of the demands expected of it and that it would prove a blessing to the people. On behalf of the city he accepted it as part of the activities with in.
Mr. Wells noted: "The hope of the nation lies in the education of its youth and we have the right to hope that the refining and elevating influences of this storehouse of knowledge and the achievement of our people may be the nobler, their lives purer and their ideals higher by reason of it."
Superintendent Raymen declared upon this occasion that the inception of public libraries was not originated in the United States and pointed to the fact that there were many in Egypt, Greece, Germany and other foreign countries before they were noted in this country. "The library has always been a source of great educational help but most strikingly has this been true since 1876 when 100 librarians met in Philadelphia to consider plans for their work." he said.
D.M. McLane presented to the Carnegie Library directors at this dedication the books that had formed the old library in the city. They consisted of 2,505 volumes with 1,000 periodicals and copies of the city papers for the past 3 years.
"This building was erected and the books in it bought to be used," asserted John J. Purinton as he accepted the volumes and periodicals from the old library, "They are not to be looked at and admired. If we add to the public school- the bulwark of our liberty-the free influence of free libraries we shall broaden our political greatness."
Upon the evening of the dedication the building was thrown open for inspection to the public. The large chandelier in the center of it near the upper ceiling with its 12 electric lights and with room for candles between them excited great interest. Each desk in the reading rooms was provided with double-light chandeliers. In all there were 28 tables within it for initial use, while it was outfitted with 14 dozen chairs that had been made of quarter-sawed oak.
The design of the entrance to the building with its wainscoting of Italian Marble with Tennessee base and the tiled floors elicited much favorable comment. Miss Gertrude Baker and Miss Mary Hall assumed the duties of librarian and assistant.
Soon thereafter those in charge of the two libraries wound up the day in a mutual gathering. The following were selected as the initial directors of the institution. W.L. Thompson, president; J.J. Weisand, vice president; John J. Purinton, secretary; George Peach, W.L. Smith, G.Y. Travis, A.V. Gilbert, Thomas Collins and Walter B. Hill. From this beginning the institution assumed functioning form.
A year later the librarian, Gertrude Baker, reported that there were 5,992 volumes and 2,081 members. "No effort has been made to increase the membership as up to the present time there have been loaned more books each month than were actually in the library." she stated.
The library had extreme financial problems for many years due to a continual lack of city funding. By 1931 however, it became eligible for county funding and has thrived with county and state funding ever since.
In 1907 the local Historical Society set up a museum in the West Room of the second floor and then later expanded to include pottery displays in the East Room displaying works from over 50 local potteries. Harold Barth was curator of said museum. The museum and pottery displays remained on the library's second floor until the 1970's when it was boxed up and removed to await the opening, in 1980, of the Museum of Ceramics in the former Post Office Building. The collections, owned by the Ohio Historical Society, became the core of the collection for the museum with many items also being distributed throughout the museums of Ohio.
In 1916 the statue of the Civil War Soldier which had been erected in 1890 in "the Diamond" and moved to the City Park (no longer in existence) in 1909 was moved and placed in front of the library. It would stand here until 1942 when it was removed and re-erected in its present location at the soldiers cemetery in the Riverview Cemetery overlooking the Ohio Valley. With his back to St. Clair Ave. he faces the former Confederacy.
During World War I the upper East Room of the library was used by the Red Cross for service project work such as rolling bandages.
In 1924 the local Rotary Club purchased a quantity of children's books and donated them to the library and canvassed the local class rooms encouraging the youth to visit the library to read them and write essays on them. The winner would attend the theater and have dinner at the expense of the Rotary Club.
During the depression of the 1930's the library saw a great growth of circulation reaching 200,000 per year
By 1936 the staff was increased to 4. Previous to this time the budget constraints had limited the staff to the two librarians and the custodial staff.
In 1940 there were 25,000 volumes but none were catalogued. An attempts was made by Gertrude Osterlin but when she left the Carnegie employ the project was abandoned. In 1950 with 36,000 volumes the Board of Trustees hired Kenneth Emerick to perform the cataloguing duties. He worked until 1955 when Beatrice Davidson was hired to continue the job. 4,000 volumes were added annually. By the mid 1960's there were 75,000 volumes, all catalogued. By 1975 it was up to 120,000 volumes.
During World War II the library took part in the Ohio Victory Book Campaign, an effort to provide good reading material to the service men. More than 3,000 books were collected in 6 weeks.
After the War, 1n 1946, a children's summer reading program was begun. It was not unusual for over 1,500 children to register in the Summer.
In 1956 the library received a donation of 250 microfilms of the local newspaper dating back to 1885. This has continued to this day. The microfilm is a great resource to those doing research.
In 1962 Librarian Frances Jones stated concerning the library's growth, "It has been able to grow because it has been comparatively free from censorship and pressure groups. A good library is not a stagnant place without change, but is constantly adjusting to the spirit of the times. A library is not a storage house, but is rather like a power house serving as a dynamo to provide inspiration and knowledge." Succeeding directors have endeavored to keep the library changing with the times.
By the mid 1970's the staff had expanded to 7 plus several student helpers and the custodian.
In 1980 the Library building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1995-6 saw the unionization of the library personnel (16 including the custodian). the coming of OPLIN ( Ohio Public Libraries Information Network) has seen a great expansion of the library's technology. The state provided one computer and a T1 line for the library and the library board has approved the installation of another 11 computers for public access for word processing, research and Internet access.
During the renovations of the 1950's the custodian's home was removed and replaced with a Trustee Meeting Room (the Board Room), and a historical display area. The basement area under the rotunda was excavated to give space for a stack room, leaving more space on the first floor for the circulating volumes. New shelving was installed for the ever expanding collection and new reading room furniture was purchased. A new circulation desk and circulation system were installed. In 1958 the tile dome was replaced and in 1959 the exterior was steam cleaned. In 1961 the rear entrance was remodeled. The administrative offices were moved to the basement replacing the area previously occupied by the historical displays. A teen area was created on the main floor where the offices had been. Cost of these renovations covering 12 years was $75,000.
The library saw extensive renovations in the 1990's. Included in these renovations were the installation of an elevator and handicap accessibility to comply with the ADA. All shelving was replaced and the Non-Fiction and Reference collections moved to the second floor to the vacant rooms. This would be the first time in the history of the library that the second floor was used as part of the library proper. All the furniture from the renovations of the 1950's was replaced. Oak tables were refinished and used in the reference and non-fiction departments. New lighting was installed throughout the library. The Board Room was eliminated and an employee lounge installed along with the elevator shaft. The administrative offices were expanded. A Local History/Community Meeting Room was installed in one half of the stack room under the rotunda area. A complete new air conditioning system was installed. The old one had not worked in several years. A new circulation desk and computerized circulation and catalogue system were installed. The circulation desk now sits in approximately the same position as the original desk. Cost of the renovations which took place over a 3 year space of time when the library remained open to the public was approximately $1,300,000.
The circulation desk has occupied a variety of locations on the library's main floor. Originally located in the rotunda area it was moved in the 1950's to the left and right of the main lobby, one side for check-out the other for check-in. In the 1970's the two desks were combined on the left side of the lobby. In the 1990 renovations the newly designed desk was positioned in approximately the same location as the original desk.
Gertrude Baker 1902-1906
Harriet Goss 1906-1914
Mary Hall 1914-1955 (assistant from 1902-1914)
E. Frances Jones 1956-1963
Beatrice Davidson 1963-1984
Robert W. Toth 1984-1988
Dr. Linda Delowry-Fryman 1988-1993
Paul Rohrbaugh 1994-1995
Gretchen Persohn 1995-1998
Theodore R. Allison 1998-2004
Melissa A.W. Percic 2004-Present
It is cheaper to use the library today, in 2009, than it was in 1962.*
Fines .05c/day adult ($.35 in 2008 dollars)
.02c/day juvenile .10c/day all materials
except videos & DVDs which are $1/day/title
(new releases) .03c/day no charge
Loss of card .25c for a duplicate ($1.79 in 2008 dollars) $1 for a duplicate
Reserves .07c/notification no charge
Loss of Book replacement cost of book replacement cost of book
Interlibrary Loan .15c/title no charge
Out of State Card $2/year ($14.29 in 2008 dollars)
$3/family/year ($21.43 in 2008 dollars) $5/year tri-state area resident
$20 deposit for temporary resident
Audio Visual Films: 16mm .01c/minute B&W
Films: 16mm .02c/minute Color
Records: .25c/title Videos: no charge
Cassettes: no charge
CD's: no charge
DVDs: no charge
*CPI Conversion factors found at http://oregonstate.edu/cla/polisci/sites/default/files/faculty-research/....