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Don’t Take Library For Granted

I’m not much of a gambler. That’s not to say I don’t purchase an occasional lottery ticket or take chances on church raffles or other benefit games of chance.

Over the decades of this career in journalism, I have taken many chances when it comes to meeting newspaper deadlines. Deadlines are an important part of this business or your work is not worth the ink.

When I was in high school, teachers believed term papers were a must in just about every class other than math. I tried not to drag my feet on such tasks because I was pretty good at writing, and it wasn’t as challenging for me to meet a deadline.

However, the two major obstacles for completing a term paper were: doing the research at the school or public library; and typing the paper on our family’s manual typewriter.

I realize there is an entire generation that cannot comprehend the nightmare that goes along with having to thread a new ribbon of ink into a typewriter powered only by human hands. It could get messy and destroy a perfectly composed term paper in no time. Yet, it was what we had at our disposal at the time.

There was an occasion when the typewriter became inoperable two days before my term paper was due. It was something for a history class and there was a lot of time and research involved. While I had the prep work done, I still had to type it up.

Thankfully the Ohio County Public Library had typewriters available for anyone to use. I spent several hours working on one of those machines to complete my schoolwork. After all, I was already there reading through tons of material in the vast caverns of books at arm’s reach. And the library’s modern, electric typewriter was much faster for the job than the old one at home.

Today, the library has kept up with the times and offers computers rather than a simple typewriter. While I had to use the card catalogs to reference an author, title of topic, today’s book listings and other materials are available at the touch of a button on a computer screen.

At the local library on 16th Street in Wheeling, there was and still is always someone ready and willing to help guide visitors to a particular stack for just the right material needed to complete a task. The Wheeling Room is among the best resource sites in the Ohio Valley and remains a popular place for folks researching their ancestors or for those simply wanting more information about this area’s fascinating history.

Even during this past year of the pandemic, the library offered ways to access reading materials, movies and other resources. This provided a lifeline for the hundreds of voracious readers who would regularly visit the library before COVID-19 shut the doors.

And the library’s online Lunch With Books and other programs have been like a visit from an old friend during the pandemic.

Maybe we take the library for granted. I just know that there are still so many of us out there who appreciate what it offers and would hate to see it decline in any way. Perhaps a recent dip in funding for the library won’t matter too much at this time. But I can’t help but read between the lines and wonder if we’re gambling on its future.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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