Ohio County Public Library Director Dottie Thomas’ Career Is Almost in the Books
WHEELING — Ohio County Library Director Dottie Thomas was born to be a librarian. As a child, she loaned out her own books to other neighborhood children and put date stamps on them.
Now Thomas is about to close the chapter on her adult career in the stacks.
She has announced she will retire effective Dec. 31. She began her job as director on Jan. 1, 1997.
“I will mark 25 full years as director,” she said. “I have been past retirement age for a few years, so I think it’s time to turn over the reins to a new director.”
Thomas said she will spend the time with her four children and eight grandchildren, all of whom live locally. She is also an active volunteer at St. Vincent dePaul Church.
Thomas said she is not the quiet librarian type of person.
“No, really I’m not,” she said. “I was a big reader as a child. I’ve always loved books, owning them and having my own books. …
“But I never dreamed of a career in libraries until the opportunity became open. I love that the library gave me an opportunity for a career, and it has been a great career.”
Thomas is a graduate of the former West Liberty State College, where she received degrees in English and history.
But she saw a job opening for a children’s specialist at the Ohio County Library, and first started there in September 1987. She would remain at that job until December 1988, when she left to pursue a library science degree at the University of Pittsburgh.
She would be hired as the assistant director at the Mary H. Weir Library in Weirton after graduating in 1990, and would move on to become the director of the library in Pittsburg, Kansas in 1992.
Thomas would return to Wheeling to become director of the Ohio County Library at the start of 1997.
She admitted the library has had to be reinvented since that time.
“The internet has changed things,” she said. “That really took off in the late 1990s. When I came back here as director, we had some access but it has expanded since then.”
Thomas said libraries serve five main roles in a community. The first two are to make information available to the public, and to provide educational opportunities. Next, the library is a place where patrons can find recreation in the form of fiction books, DVDs, musical compact discs, and reading and listening information.
It should also serve as a community center, and also as a place for culture and history programs.
Thomas said the library’s community room is widely used. While activities there curtailed during the pandemic, it is back to being busy most evenings. The library also has expanded culture and history programming in recent years, and the local history room has room for growth.
Library personnel, meanwhile, have been busy in the special archives room on the library’s lower level. It is there they continue to catalogue and make accessible local history items.
There are children’s programs, as well as a children’s specialist who goes to schools to read to children.
For adults, the library offers “Lunch With Books” and “People’s University” programming.
Still, there are some people who can’t come to the library, according to Thomas. The library no longer has a bookmobile, but it does have a van that delivers materials to those at home who request them.
“We’ve expanded our outreach to people who can’t get to the library,” she said. “We no longer have a bookmobile as there are not as many stay at home parents. And the elderly were telling us they had issues coming to the library.”
The van now delivers books and such items as compact discs on a regular basis to high rises, nursing homes and individual homes where people are homebound.
Thomas looks back with glee at her career.
“I have loved it. I have loved this library,” she said. “Anyone who visits libraries in West Virginia knows we have the best in state. We have the biggest number of meeting rooms, and the most space. And we have been able to expand all five roles of the library.”