Belmont County Library System Has a Lot to Check Out

Photos by Dylan McKenzie A patron looks through a cart of books at the St. Clairsville Public Library. With the passage of a levy in November, library Director Doug Walsh is hoping to be able to purchase many new books for guests in the coming months.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — In winter weather conditions, sometimes outdoor activities just aren’t practical. Fortunately for Ohio Valley residents, there are resources that can still provide a variety of fun and education at your local library.

The Belmont County Library System includes branches in St. Clairsville, Martins Ferry, Bethesda, Bridgeport, Powhatan Point and Shadyside, as well as the Victoria Read Library in Flushing. All of these locations mean that it is never hard for residents to find a library close to them.

Folks know that libraries contain books of every genre; no matter whether you like to curl up with a good romance novel or get lost in an exciting science fiction series, you should be able to find it at your local library. Even if the library doesn’t have the particular volume or author that a visitor is looking for, most libraries can do an inter-library loan, where they borrow the book from another branch or library for the visitor’s enjoyment.

The books can also be a gateway to making new friends; many libraries hold regular programs such as book clubs for adults and storytime for children. Attending these programs can help a parent make some new social connections or help a child make friends in their age group.

Most libraries also take part in summer reading programs, encouraging young adults and children to keep learning and expanding their minds throughout the summer months. These programs provide rewards to keep children interested and reading.

The St. Clairsville Public Library tries to provide a wide variety of interesting programs for visitors, according to Director Doug Walsh. Walsh said the library staff tries to listen to what customers would like to see so they know what to try and arrange and offer their visitors.

“People are used to the library offering storytime for children and other programs like that,” Walsh said. “We also have programs for adults and teens, too.”

One of the programs that Walsh thinks helps make the St. Clairsville library unique is a monthly crafting program, where visitors have the chance to make a small themed craft each class; for example, February’s craft will be themed for Valentine’s Day. The library also offers several book clubs — two fiction clubs and one non-fiction club that will start in February. Another service the library provides is technology assistance for people who might need help setting up a new device, establishing an email account or other technology-based issue. A staff member is trained on how to help with various problems and will do their best to assist guests who need it. The library also holds classes in financial literacy for those who want to learn a little more in that area.

“If you haven’t been to the library for awhile and you think it was just for getting books, stop by,” Walsh said. “You’ll be surprised.”

The St. Clairsville library and the county library system recently enjoyed passage of a couple of levies during the November election. Voters living within the St. Clairsville-Richland City School District approved a 0.5-mill levy in support of the city’s library.

Walsh said prior to its passage that the St. Clairsville library was one of only 58 libraries in Ohio that had been trying to operate without levy funds from the local community. He said the money is needed for building maintenance and a variety of purposes.

County voters also chose to approve a 1-mill levy for current expenses to benefit the Belmont County Library District. The levy will be used to help support the library in a variety of ways, including maintaining library hours, staff and services; increasing available materials; expanding electronic resources; upgrading technology and increasing access to public computing; and maintaining the facilities and properties.

Walsh said he hopes that with the levy funds, the library will be able to provide even more programs and services to its cardholders, which Walsh said number about 6,000 individuals.

The library is looking into buying “a lot more new books,” upgrading the technology at the library and enhancing programs. For example, Walsh said the facility is planning to host an Abraham Lincoln impersonator on Feb. 20 to tie in with the non-fiction club’s book “Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer.”

“It gives us a whole new budget,” Walsh said. “We want to spend the resources wisely.”

St. Clairsville isn’t the only local library that holds special events and programs for its guests. The Martins Ferry Public Library also tries to offer a variety of interesting programs, recently hosting master falconer Mick Brown and his bird to discuss the finer points of the art of falconry. The Martins Ferry library also hosted local magician Michael Strough for a performance during the Purple City’s Winterfest celebration.

These are just a few examples of how libraries try to give guests the chance to participate in activities and expand their horizons. All it takes is a little digging to see what your library can offer you.

“People that haven’t visited in a long time, stop in an ask us what we have,” Walsh said. ‘Our staff will respond as best we can. I think people will be surprised if they haven’t visited in a while.”