By Sandi Thompson, Puskarich Public Library
Small libraries are in a unique niche. Usually located in small or rural communities, Ohio’s small libraries take on local flavors and are a reflection of their community. What makes your small library special? Perhaps your library has a special collection of items, a huge annual event, community garden, concerts, art displays, or a unique makerspace that brings people to your library. Today’s library continues to be a fascinating place always offering new things to do and learn. Many small libraries throughout Ohio offer interesting things to do and see.
The Puskarich Public Library is located in Cadiz, part of southeast Ohio’s coal country. In 1994, the Harrison County History of Coal Museum (www.thecoalmuseum.com) was established to preserve the local deep mining and surface mining history. It is located in the lower level of the library and exhibits were developed in cooperation with the Ohio History Connection. There are many donated items in the museum including photographs, remnants of large coal shovels, watch fobs, and scrip. Various films that explain the mining industry can be viewed in the attached theater space. The museum is open during library hours. Special tours with retired miners can be arranged for larger groups.
The centerpiece of the Harris-Elmore Public Library is a 1904 Elmore car built by the Elmore Manufacturing Company, only one of two are known of this model to be in existence. The carmaker began by making bicycles in Elmore, Ohio in 1893. By the time cars were being produced though, production was lured 20 miles away to a factory in Clyde Ohio, and eventually the company was purchased by General Motors. Even though it was only in production for a few years, the Elmore car was considered reliable due to its relatively few parts. The engine only had three internal parts: the piston, connecting rod and crankshaft.
The little blue roadster came back to Elmore about forty years ago after Elmore native, Pete Willet, purchased it at auction from The Henry Ford Museum and donated it to the library. Amy Laity, Director of the Harris-Elmore Public Library, feels fortunate to have the car and says how many enthusiasts stop to see the car due to their close proximity to the Ohio turnpike.
The Dr. Earl Sloan Library is a small rural library located in Zanesfield, Ohio. Housed in a historic brick and gray stone building with an Italian tile roof, most people are immediately transported back to their childhood when they walk up the wide, oak tongue and groove steps to the main hall, see the original interior woodwork and plaster walls where the Library Director, Polly Bargar, still uses skeleton keys to lock the doors. Part of the charm is maintained because the library’s bylaws include that changes “be considered and enacted deliberately” thus phone service was not installed until 1995. This well-preserved building houses pieces from the county’s first Historical Society and items that document the life of Earl Sloan, the library’s namesake.
Earl Sloan grew up in Zanesfield, the son of a local Irish immigrant, who made horse harnesses. Earl’s father was well known for his ability with horses and for the strong-smelling liniment that he developed to rub down horses with sore muscles. In 1871, Earl went to work with his brother in St. Louis at a livery stable. While there, one of their customers discovered that the liniment relieved the soreness in his back. They began advertising that the liniment was “good for man and beast.” At 23 years old, Earl moved to Chicago since sales were so successful, and he continued to promote the product. He later added “Dr.” to his name, trademarked the liniment and started a corporation. In 1913, he sold the business for 1 million to William R. Warner & Co., the maker of Listerine.
Earl Sloan eventually provided money to aid in the building of the library in Zanesfield and established an endowment for its continued maintenance. Many of his items make for a fascinating display at the library including his portrait by a local well known artist, amazing grandfather clock, Sloan’s cookbook, and other unique items. With sufficient notice, the Director also provides “history and village tours” making a visit truly memorable. “Sloan’s Liniment” is still sold online today, being popular in the Asian market with the same label and walrus mustache according to Library Director, Polly Bargar.
The Loudonville Public Library recently created a truly baby friendly early literacy play space. Every element that was incorporated into this area focuses on fostering the development of early literacy skills. The centerpiece of the new area is “Marjorie’s Alphabet Soup Diner.” The features of this special play space also include a padded bench for caregivers, many integrated tactile options for the babies (“discovery” packets containing seeds, marbles, and corn), large letters, mirrors and wall mounted interactive games. This is a very unique space worth visiting especially if you have little ones or are thinking of creating an early literacy zone in your library. The process of creating this area was featured in Public Library Online, a publication of the Public Library Association.
An awe-inspiring installation of stained glass windows is located in the Conneaut Public Library. The first window was commissioned in April 1998 that coincided with the opening of their new library. Since that time, various windows have been commissioned including one depicting beautiful irises in honor of the retirement of the library director, Debbie Zingaro, and two windows were commissioned by the youth services coordinator, Stephanie Gildone, in memory of her mother appropriately depicting Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Little Red Riding Hood. As of today, the library hosts 15 stained glass masterpieces all created by stained glass artist, John Sheffer. Each window has a special story to tell. Sadly, John Sheffer passed away in 2016. John had designed six windows that detailed the lifestyle and history of Conneaut. These designs will come to fruition as friends at AZURE Stained Glass Studio complete his works to be installed later this year.
The Conneaut Public Library also is the site of a spectacular Summer Reading extravaganza. Their Build a Better World program aims to educate local families about the history of their city through its diverse architecture. They will be visiting different countries via “Dewey Airlines” Flight 629 inside a part of the meeting room that is transformed into the inside of an airplane. The other half of the meeting room will change each week with oversized cut outs of a country map, flag, children in costumes of the country, animals and a famous structure. All will be painted with fluorescent paint and lit with black lights so everything glows. Examples of hometown architecture that are influenced by that particular country will be discussed and shared.
The sights and exhibits within the walls of small libraries are as varied and unique as the communities that they represent. Ohio has a treasure trove of wonderful and exciting libraries. If you have a chance, take a trip and visit one of these “best kept secrets.” There is always something new to learn and discover at a library!
-Sandi Thompson, Director, Puskarich Public Library
My thanks to these wonderful individuals who provided such interesting information for this article:
Polly Bargar, Director, Dr. Earl Sloan Public Library
Amy Laity, Director, Harris-Elmore Public Library
Mike Thornton, Director, Loudonville Public Library
Stephanie Gildone, Youth Services Coordinator, Conneaut Public Library
Cindy Prather, Assistant Director, Conneaut Public Library
Mandy Knapp, OPLIN