It’s the people’s library

The Seneca Advertiser, of May 19, 1848, mentioned the fact there was not sufficient spirit and energy in the citizens to establish a public library, according to Myron B. Barnes. Boy, did they underestimate the people of Seneca county! There was a small collection of books back then, available only to a very few members who founded the library. Not everyone had books or access to them at that time. The people, however, soon would want more, and this small start would eventually become today’s Tiffin-Seneca Public Library.

To paraphrase some points in the article, we start in 1866, when the library association of Tiffin was formed, mostly to purchase books to lend to its own membership. It wasn’t until March 6, 1880, that an application was filed in Columbus for the incorporation of the Tiffin Public Library Association. This movement was spearheaded by the leading citizens who were more educated and well off. A librarian was employed for 50 cents a day for a minimum of 300 days a year. Now the people had more books, an association to buy them and a librarian. Those who loved books anticipated using the library even more.

By 1886, the “Fair Advertiser” announced the library was in the northwest corner of the basement of the courthouse and “contained 2,000 volumes of historical scientific and biographic works plus fiction and poetry.” The people wanted these books to circulate throughout the county and urged the farmers to give the library their “hearty support.” It was described as a public library, but only life members, who had paid $30 each, could borrow books without charge. Shareholders could borrow books for an annual fee of $1.50 but the people yearned for a free and equal library for everyone!

The library continued to grow, and moved to the former Loomis residence on the southwest corner of Market and Jefferson streets. It was here, in the late 1890s, that Jessie Hershiser and Louisa K. Fast served as librarians.

In 1911, Andrew Carnegie funded a new library building and gave the city $25,000 to build it. The city would furnish the site and budget money annually for maintenance. By 1936, service was being given to the entire county. The people had made another advance.

Library services continued to grow, as did the costs of operation. There was a steadily increasing demand for service, increasing patronage by the people, and some fine library directors. A motion picture film lending service was started in 1952. In 1954, musical recordings were available for loan. I think there were stories on filmstrips that could be watched, too. By 1954, three assistant librarians helped Helen Blood. People enjoyed these precursors to today’s technology and would have loved the CDs and Playaways, e-books, and DVDs we have now!

T-SPL continued to expand and also received tax funds for building repairs and operating funds. By 1971, it had become necessary to have a larger building. Property was purchased at the corner of Jefferson and Perry streets. The new library had many aspects which would insure a more effective operation, including a large parking lot. Blood dedicated much time and energy to the completion of the project, which the general public had long recognized as a top priority. Tiffin has much to be proud of in its library, and the county also shared this pride. Seneca County had public libraries appearing in Fostoria, Attica, Bloomville, Bettsville and Green Springs, according to the The Advertiser article.

I feel a deep sense of gratitude for what this library has meant to me since I received my first library card here in 2001. Look around at the spacious, free, well-stocked and well-maintained library of today. It is a place where all requests are respected. We will go to any lengths available within our budget range to find what the patron needs.

As I walk through the Iibrary, sometimes I notice people in deep concentration or study, smiling at a computer screen at a message from a friend, looking for information on just about any topic, taking a class, or maybe involved in a book discussion. They choose what they would like to check out from a wide array of more than 100,000 items. They may take them home if they wish, and all for free. They may even use self-checkout.

The people of Seneca County have spoken. This is their library. It has been a long time evolving into what it is today, but it is how they have always envisioned it to be. It keeps getting better each year!

Susan Lareau is the reference/genealogy librarian at Tiffin-Seneca Public Library