MARY H. WEIR PUBLIC LIBRARY
The Weirton Woman's Club was formed in 1923. In 1924, the Club decided to make its first project the formation of a public library. This decision was partly the result of a request by Miss Gertrude Miller of the Weirton Christian Center to the West Virginia Federation for books to use at the Center. A Federation officer passed this request on to the newly formed club and the public library was voted by the club to be its first project.
Mrs. Myrtle Bambrick, as president of the club, was instrumental in promoting the library project. The club began raising money for the project by holding dances, musical comedies, concerts, tag days, rummage sales, picture shows and card parties. Early in 1926, Mrs. C. S. Moses, who had helped organize a library in McMechen, West Virginia, was appointed to head the committee to plan and start the library.
With less than one thousand dollars, no building facilities, and no books, three of the committee members called upon the Weirton Steel Company for help. They secured a share of the social services building providing that Mrs. Edwards, being a loyal member of the Weirton Woman's Club, gave them room. This first home of the Weirton Public Library was a room in a small frame building which stood on the present site of the Weirton Post Office. A number of books were donated; the club had shelves built, purchased a desk, a few chairs and some books.
May 7, 1926, was opening day. With shelves containing less than one thousand books, the library was open four hours that day and received one hundred and eleven visitors.
At first, the library workers were volunteers from the Weirton Woman's Club. They tried to keep the library open four hours a day, three days a week. Since it was difficult to schedule workers, Mrs. C. S. Moses was employed as librarian, and the club paid her a small salary. A membership fee of 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children was charged. At the end of the first year, there were 1272 books on the shelves and a card catalog of three files. The book collection included adult fiction, juvenile fiction, reference works and a small rental collection.
In September of 1927, Mrs. John D. Runkle replaced Mrs. Moses as librarian. Mrs. Runkle served as librarian from that time until a few months before her death late in 1955. She reclassified all of the books according to the Dewey Decimal system of classification. She was assisted in this work by the librarian of the Steubenville Carnegie Library and the Weir High School librarian. Mrs. Runkle took a correspondence course in Library Science from Columbia University.
The first budget was $600.00 for the fiscal year 1928-29; $420.00 went for the librarian's salary and $180.00 for books.
Social services moved into the Industrial Relations Building in December of 1930, leaving their entire former home to the library. The building was then remodeled by the Weirton Improvement Company; new floors, new shelves, and a new heating system were installed. The library committee had two tables built and bought some chairs to be used for reading and reference work.
Circulation grew very rapidly during the Depression years when most people could not afford more expensive forms of recreation. During this period, circulation averaged 20,000 books per year. But the club's funds were exhausted and it was almost impossible to raise money through benefits. At this time Weirton Steel completed the budget for the year. The last year before the Community Chest was formed found the library with no money to purchase books.
The organization of the Community Chest in 1935 saved the day for the library. By becoming an agency in the Chest, the library was allotted a budget permitting it to open 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. But, alas, disaster struck again in the spring of 1936 when the ground on which the library building stood was sold to the United States government for the new Weirton Post Office building. At this time, it was suggested by some of the men in town that the books be put in storage until such time as a home could be found for them. However, the Weirton Woman's Club would have no part of such a suggestion and soon persuaded Mr. Nick Anas to rent them a room in the new Cove Theater Building. New tables, chairs, shelving and other equipment were added to make the room usable. On June 16, 1936, the library re-opened in its new location. Circulation more than doubled in the next two years, hitting a high of 7485 for one month and 432 for one day. The first story hour was conducted here by the members of the Junior Woman's Club. The story hour lasted for a few weeks; 532 attended.
1938 brought new financial difficulties; collections for the Community Chest were low and allotments to agencies were cut. The library was given only enough money to pay rent and the librarian's salary. In addition to these problems, the room in the Cove Theater was no longer available and the library had to look for a new home. Another location was made available at 3372 Main Street. In September of 1938, the library moved into its new quarters and remained there until 1952. In this building, the library conducted story hours, began a film service, and acquired a projector for use by community groups. The Weirton Woman's Club donated a ceiling projector which, with books in microfilm, was made available for use by bedfast patients.
By this time the book stock was in very bad physical condition; they were dirty, torn, and the covers were worn out from use. The Works Progress Administration came to the rescue with a book-binding project to clean and rebind books. The library furnished a place to work, equipment, and one half of the supplies. Assistants to the librarian were paid for by the National Youth Administration and the W. P. A. until these agencies went out of existence.
From January 1945 until September 1952, a high school student was employed on an hourly basis to help Mrs. Runkle. In 1952, Miss Minnie Heaslett, a retired school teacher was employed as a half time assistant. Mrs. Charles Bailey and Miss Margaret Ross were later added to the staff as assistants.
As plans were being made for a new community center building for the city, the Weirton Woman's Club was promised a room in that building for the library. After looking at the plans, they found that the room provided was unsatisfactory - it was located under the stage, was inaccessible, and had no windows. With the aid of Mrs. Ernest T. Weir, the women managed to secure one of the nicest rooms in the community building for the library.
In the spring of 1952, the library moved into the north wing of the Weirton Community Center and continued to expand its services. In 1956, the shelves contained more than 18,000 books including works of reference and fiction. Such non-fiction subjects as biography, history, science, travel, and art were plentiful.
The story hour, sponsored jointly by the Literary Department of the Weirton Woman's Club and the library, became one of the library's most successful ventures. Attendance often exceeded 100 for these sessions and had to be moved from the library to various large rooms made available in the community. Borrowers' cards were free to subscribers and their families of the Weirton Community Chest and to members of the Community Center. Others had to pay a fee of 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children. The library was opened Monday through Saturday from 12 noon until 9 p.m. The reading room was free to the public.
Three women important to the public library movement in Weirton were Mrs. Walter Bambrick, Mrs. John Runkle and Miss Minnie Heaslett. Mrs. Runkle was honored with a tribute and a Christmas greeting in the Weirton newspaper on December 24, 1955. She served as librarian for 28 years and during that time was away from her post only at vacation time. She was the widow of the Reverend John D. Runkle and most of her life was devoted to Christian service. While serving as librarian, her work was orderly and precisely carried out. "At any time of the day she could find immediately what might be asked for in the matter of book reference, library business, or the location of different books requested. Her accounts and statistical ledgers have always been kept up to the minute and she could answer at once how many members were registered at any month or day of the years she has been librarian."
Miss Minnie Heaslett was honored as the J C's Citizen of the Month as being an outstanding public servant in many facets of community life. Since her retirement from teaching, she has served ably and efficiently as acting librarian at the public library.
For her outstanding community service to Weirton and Hancock county through the years 1924 to 1966, Mrs. Myrtle Bambrick was given an award for distinguished achievement by the West Virginia Library Association. She was instrumental in opening the original library in 1924, Mrs. Bambrick has been a guiding spirit in the development of library service in Weirton. Through the years she has worked tirelessly for better library service by serving as chairman of library activities for the Weirton Woman's Club.
Much of the credit for the new Mary H. Weir Public Library which Weirton enjoys today goes to Mrs. Bambrick. She has served on the Board of trustees for the library since its creation in 1958.
On March 15, 1956, ground was broken for a new public library. The new institution was being presented to the city by its founder, Ernest T. Weir. In ground breaking ceremonies at the building site, adjacent to the Community Center, Mrs. Weir, for whom the library was to be named, used a silver spade to turn the first earth.
The library, financed by the E. T. Weir foundation was turned over to the city of Weirton and administered by a Library Board appointed by the City council. Serving on the original Board were: Mr. John A. Jones, president; Mrs. Walter S. Bambrick, secretary; Mrs. David Frew, treasurer; Mrs. H. Burdette Grow and Mr. George H. Campbell. Mrs. Delbert Cunningham was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Mrs. Frew.
The Mary H. Weir Public Library, a $450.000 gift to city of Weirton, was opened at the dedication ceremonies in June 2, 1958. At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Mrs. Weir said that she hoped the residents of Weirton would "benefit from this library as my husband and I have benefited from this community." Mr. Weir, who was honored at the ground breaking ceremony in 1956, died on June 26, 1957.
In accepting the keys to the library from Mrs. Weir, Mayor Sam Kusic spoke in behalf of the community. "In this library," he said, "as in the hearts of Weirton's people, the memory of Mr. and Mrs. Weir will live forever."
The new library is administered by a Board of Directors appointed by the City Council. It is supported by funds from the city of Weirton, the Community Chest, and private contributions. The library opened with a staff of twelve and collection of 38,000 volumes.
A new type of library card was issued for the Mary H. Weir Public Library. The Gaylord automatic charging machine to be used in the circulation department took a smaller card than had formerly been used in the public library. New cards were issued in advance of the opening date. Membership was free of charge to all citizens of Weirton since the institution was tax supported. Membership was also free to all contributors of the Weirton Community Chest, regardless of where they lived. Charge for out-of-town users was $2.00 per year for adults and children and $1.00 for out-of-town college students.
Upon entering the Mary H. Weir Public Library from Main Street, the main reading room was to the right. The children's section occupied the side area of this room; adjoining the children's section and to the west of it was the teenage section. The non-fiction was located on the south side of the reading room and the fiction and reference materials were along the east wall. In the center of the main reading room was the section containing biographies, current newspapers and magazines and the library display case. In the lobby, to the right of the main reading room, was the circulation desk. Behind it was the librarian's office and next to this office was the fine arts room. To the left and on the north side of the lobby is the industrial research room where industrial reference volumes were located. At the northeast corner of the lobby were steps that descended to the lower level of the library. In this section were rest rooms, the public telephone, a book storage room, the engineer's room, children's activity room. The latter was the scene of a story telling hour and other children's cultural activities under the direction of the children's librarian. The room could be blacked out for showing of motion pictures and had 300 metal folding chairs in addition to children's furniture for use in cultural activities conducted as library functions.
On the west wall of the children's activity room is a mural approximately ten by fifty-four feet composed of 1-1/16 inch squares of unglazed Granitex mosaics with glazed embellishments. These embellishments form a series of decorative motifs and symbols having symbolic significance of the past, present, and future. The left portion of the mural contains symbols of sources of Western culture, namely the Hebrew, Greek and Roman civilizations and the arts and sciences of their time. The center portion symbolizes the present culture with the right portion dedicated to the future.
Mr. William C. Myers of Baltimore, Ohio was employed as the first librarian of the Mary H. Weir Public Library. Mr. Myers came to Weirton from the Public Library of North Baltimore. He had a Bachelor of Science from Otterbein College, Westerville, Ohio; A Master of Education from Akron University, Akron, Ohio; and a Master of Arts in Library Science from Kent State, Kent, Ohio.
Mr. Myers retained the position as librarian of the Mary H. Weir Public Library until his retirement January 1, 1969. Under Myers's directorship the library grew in number of volumes, circulation and services offered. The collection grew from 8,000 volumes in 1958 to 40,000 in 1968. Circulation increased from 56,807 in 1958-59 to 120,369 in 1966-67. On June 26, 1963, the goal of 100,000 was reached.
Film service was continued and a photo copying service was begun in 1962. In December of 1967, a 3m 309 Automatic Copier was installed. In 1962, a microfilm service was begun with the purchase of a Recordak Micro reader by the Weirton Women's Club. A 3m Microfilm Reader Printer was provided by the West Virginia Library Commission in 1967. In 1962, the Weirton Jay-C-ettes contributed a subscription to the New York Times Index for 1963. This collection of the New York Times Index for 1963. This collection of the New York Times Index was later expanded. In January, 1964, the library was designated as a selective Depository of Government Documents. An anonymous gift of over 300 high fidelity records in November of 1965 was the beginning of a record collection which had grown to over 700 by 1968.
On April 21, 1964, the Hancock County Court agreed to underwrite the operating cost of bookmobile service to residents of Hancock County outside of Weirton. The West Virginia Library Commission gave its approval of the library as the administrator of this service and provided the bookmobile and 7,600 books. The bookmobile collection grew to over 10,000 volumes.
In July of 1967, through the Library Services and Construction Act of 1964, the library became a Service Center Library for Brooke and Hancock Counties. On June 13, 1968, the library became one of 16 libraries throughout the state of West Virginia to be connected on a teletype network in interlibrary cooperation.
The story hours were continued successfully in cooperation with the Library Activities committee of the Weirton Woman's Club each spring and fall. Summer reading clubs have been conducted by the library staff each year.
Mr. Robert L. Levine succeeded William C. Myers as Librarian January 1, 1969. Mr. Levine came to the Mary H. Weir Public Library from Fredonia, New York, where he served as assistant reference librarian and president of the Library Staff Association at the State University College. He has been employed at libraries in Philadelphia and Dayton. A graduate of the State University College at Buffalo, he received his Master's Degree in Library Science from Drexel Institute of Technology, Philadelphia.
History of Library 1969-1998
compiled and written by Jane Kraina
Robert I. Levine served as director of the library from 1969-70. Mr. Myers stepped back into the position until early 1972 when S. Fred Natale became head librarian. In 1970, the Mary H. Weir Public Library was the 6th largest in the state according to the annual report of the West Virginia Library Commission. In 1971, the Library ranked 3rd in circulation with 131,805 books checked out. The budget of the library was $83,767. By 1973, the library increased the number of books possessed from 8,000 to 50,000.
From 1958 to 1973, the staff gave a list of the most popular books circulated. They were Gone with the Wind, The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Captains and Kings, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Good Earth, A Gift of Prophecy, and Airport. Two books by Dale Smith had a high check-out rate. They depicted a steel town in the 1920s based on Weirton--the titles were Naked in December and Multitude of Men.
In 1976, the Library circulated 110,638 items. The Overbrook Towers Library increased circulation by 79%. The growth of the library caused a need for a larger building. City funding allowed for the Library Board to hire a library consultant to evaluate how the library could best add space to the original building.
The consultant, Mr. Falgione recommended adding space of 8,280 square feet to both floors. Downstairs, the bookmobile gained space and a new heating system was put in. Upstairs, new bookshelves were added and the staff moved the books that had been placed downstairs due to lack of space, back on the main floor where the public could view them and check them out. Library studies had found that lack of visibility caused a related loss of circulation. Director S. Fred Natale estimated the cost of the new construction to be about $500,000 and that the tentative date of completion would be May, 1978.
The library held formal dedication ceremonies on Sunday, June 3, 1979. Mr. Thomas Bontempo presented the key to George Campbell, charter member of the Mary H. Weir Public Library Board of Trustees. Mr. Bontempo represented the company of Wallover and Mitchell, who provided the architects for the addition. George Campbell gave the key passed to him to Mr. S. Fred Natale, Director of the Mary H. Weir Public Library. Duke Horstemeyer, President of the Board of Trustees, served as Master of Ceremonies and introduced Honorable Sam R. Harshbarger, Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court, who gave the dedication address. Guests toured the new addition and enjoyed refreshments. The facilities made the library handicapped accessible.
In 1982, S. Fred Natale received a Certificate of Merit from the West Virginia Library Association for his accomplishments as a librarian and administrator. Since 1972, he had increased the budget eight-fold.
The summer reading program in 1982 proved such a success that the both local stations and KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, documented the gains. KDKA featured the Bookman Program (taking advantage of the Pac-man popularity) on its evening news show and emphasized that during a time of economic recession the library offered services the public depended on.
During that year, the community waited as Weirton Steel became an employee-owned mill. The workers endured pay cuts and lay-offs and feared they would lose the mill which had been the community's lifeblood. The Christmas Program in 1982 also attracted a huge crowd. Over 500 children and 148 adults attended the event appealing to the whole family.
In 1983, 236,856 materials were used. June Eiselstein, took over as director in 1983 after serving as assistant director from 1980 on. She received her M.S. in Library Science from the University of Pittsburgh. Her special interests were children's programming and literacy.
The Literacy Program grew as the library addressed community needs. As early as 1977, the library began assisting area residents with their basic reading needs. The library added a formal Literacy Department in 1981, and Ann Scales was named co-ordinator. She was honored by WVLA in 1982 for her work in promoting literacy. In 1981, the library chose the Laubach method of teaching reading, emphasizing phonics, but including some sight learning. The Laubach program used volunteers to work with community members needing reading, basic math and GED training.
Pam Makricosta took over the program in 1984 and helped the library to enter the computer age. With a $115,000 grant obtained from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the library purchased 18 computers and formed the City's Weirton Computer Communications Computer Center. The public access allowed people to practice skills learned in school and to gain basic computer skills as more and more workplaces demanded computer literacy. In 1985, the United States Army and the National Council on Library and Information Science chose the Literacy Program in a Technology Transfer Project.
In 1985, the library automated circulation and cataloging. Local foundations made contributions of $45,000 and the J.C. Williams Charitable Trust also contributed in 1984. The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation helped round out the project of $15,024 in aid.
The West Virginia Library Commission provided half the money towards the $212,000 start-up cost of the automation project servicing the entire Northern Panhandle. In addition to cataloging books on the computer and checking out books out by computer, library patrons could look up books on the computer. Circulation went online July 12, 1985. In the fall, the online public computers became available.
In 1986-1987, the library's reference staff answered 14,430 questions and lent out 120,043 items. The library offered DIALOG, and online search service that accesses over 200 databases. In 1988, the library's Literacy Program was ranked one of the four best in the nation in a one year study by the Department of Education.
Richard Rekowski became director of the library in 1987 after having served as assistant director. He received his Masters of Library Science Degree from the University of Pittsburgh. During 1989, the transfer of all the materials in the children's section was completed. The library added a computerized magazine index, Infotrac in 1989. In 1989, the Library closed for a few weeks in August to finish the automation project All the books on the main floor of the library were entered into the computer through the project. From July 1, 1988 to June 20, 1989, 130,000 books and audiovisual materials were checked out.
In 1990, the J.C. Williams Charitable and Institutional Trust Foundation granted $25,000 for the purchase of new equipment to increase accessibility and service to users. In June of 1991, a sad event occurred. The Hancock Brooke Bookmobile lost funding from the Hancock County Library Board and after 28 years of bookmobile service, it made its last run. The bookmobile which was a 1976 model was a familiar sight to citizens of both counties, and circulated 54,000 materials the year it ended its visits. Three people lost their jobs as a result of the phase-out of the bookmobile.
In 1992, the library opted to increase their services by requesting excess levy funds from Hancock County. The $100,000 per year funding provided a van to run between the three Hancock County libraries and enabled the book budgets to be expanded. The money also helped to provide funding as libraries entered the Internet age. The levy funding continued coming up for renewal every two years.
The clubs in the area continued to donate funds to the library. The Weirton Woman's Club, the Business and Professional Women's Club, the Elks, the Kiwanis and the Lions Club gave cameras, printers and books on tape to the library. The Weirton Woman's Club often donated refreshments and served at library events. The Literary Department annually gave funds to purchase books. Other clubs also contributed to the library and the Weirton Golden Agers donated a television set. Businesses also provided generously to the library by helping purchase audiovisual equipment.
In 1995, the J.C. Williams Charitable and Institutional Trust Fund again helped the library by funding computer purchases. The library purchased thirty computers for library patrons to use. The Internet Theater was set up in the reference area and allowed for library patrons to access the Internet by checking out computer time with their library card. Other computers served as word processors and housed spreadsheet applications. West Virginia Northern Community College began teaching Windows 95 classes at the library and Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel offered classes to their workers using the library's networked computers.
In 1996, through a Benedum grant, the Library began an intern program for computer students from Bethany, West Liberty, and West Virginia Northern Community Colleges. The students designed web pages for the fourteen libraries in the six northern counties of Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Tyler and Wetzel. They also made pages for community organizations. The interns assisted the public in using the computers and helped load software applications and fix hardware problems. In 1998, the Legislature provided funds from the state Budget Digest to continue the intern program.
In the decades of the seventies, eighties and nineties the Library
serviced the community and helped the citizens through tough economic times. As the
information age took over, the Mary H. Weir Public Library also met the needs of the
public as they tried to keep up with the new technology. The library has added many roles
as we continue into the multimedia age and have information delivered in many formats. The
library looks forward to the new millennium and knows it will continue to aid the public
in ways it can't yet imagine or conceive.