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Public Library in Wheeling in 1886

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▼ Newspaper Article

- from The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, September 14, 1886


One of the Noblest of Wheeling's Public Institutions — Its Rapid Growth and Extent.

The Public Library, though still in its infancy, is an institution of which Wheeling has a right to be proud and which is by no means the least of her solid attractions. Its beginning was small and unpretentious, but it has advanced rapidly both in size and quality and the public's appreciation, until now, though but four years old, it is a model and a lasting credit to the city, and especially to the Board of Education of the Independent School District of Wheeling, by whose authority it was founded and is conducted.

The school law of this district, as amended and re-enacted March 11 and April 12, 1875, February 14 and March 24, 1882, provided that the Board of Education might maintain, support and increase a public library for the use and benefit of the residents of the District by levying a tax not to exceed 3 cents on the $100 valuation, and should make all rules and regulations for conducting and managing such a public library.


Under this law the Wheeling Public Library was opened to the public August 12, 1882. For a number of years Wheeling had been without a public library of any kind. The old Wheeling Library Association, a joint stock affair that was once prosperous and flourishing, had fallen entirely to pieces and its books and furniture lay mouldering in the basement of the Public Building. Hon. John M. Birch, the present United States Consul to Nagasaki, Japan, then Superintendent of the Schools, and Mr. H.H. Pendleton, then as not, Clerk of the Board, President C.H. Collier, of the Board, Dr. S.L. Jepson and a number of other public-spirited members of the Board, had for a long time had in view the establishment of a public library, as being something not only due the people, but beneficial to the community. After considerable trouble and unwinding of red tape, the property of the defunct Library Association was secured and a levy laid for the maintenance of a Public Library. the rough, unfinished hall over Smythe's grocery, corner of Market and Fourteenth streets, was secured and fitted up plainly but at the same time comfortably and attractively. The Library was a popular resort for young and old from the start. As the number of volumes grew, however, the space became so cramped that the enlargement of the reading room became an imperative necessity. This year both of the second floors in the Paxton block, corner of Market and Fourteenth streets, were secured and fitted up in a pleasing and convenient manner. The quarters now occupied will serve for a number of years to come. The library is a series of alcoves, and the reading room is light, airy and cheerful. There are convenient toilet rooms, and the offices of the Superintendent, the Board and Clerk and Librarian adjoin.


Being compelled to fit up quarters twice in four years has consumed considerable money that would otherwise have been used for the purchase of books. Still no complaint can be made on this score; the Board has always acted in a spirit of the greatest liberality towards the Library. The Library was opened with about 4,200 books on its shelves. These have been increased by purchase and donation to about 8,600 volumes. During the months of September, October, November and December 1882, there were 10,629 volumes taken out for home use, not counting those taken from August 12th to the 31st. In 1883 there were 41,362 volumes taken out; in 1884, 48,756; in 1885, 57,898 volumes, and in the first six months of this year 31,159 volumes, and for seven weeks of this time the Library was closed in order that the enlargements might be made. In 1883, 1,293 volumes were used in the reading room; in 1884, 2,935 volumes; in 1885, 6,849 volumes and in the first six months of this year 4,475 volumes. These figures show the steady increase and indicate the growth of the public appreciation of this great benefit. The reading room is well supplied with all the leading periodicals, pictorials and daily papers from all the leading cities of the country; and this list is being continuously increased.


As showing the class or style of literature read, the following figures are from Librarian Pendleton's report for the year 1885: For home use 47,696 volumes of fiction or 32.28 percent of all the books given out, were taken; polygraphy, 2,775 volumes, 4.79 percent; politics and commerce, 59 volumes, .10 percent; philology, 19 volumes, .04 percent; poetry and drama, 500 volumes, .88 percent; history, 2,061 volumes, 3.55 percent; biography, 1,259 volumes, 2.17 percent; geography and travels, 2,254 volumes, 3.89 percent; science and art, 845 volumes, 1.29 percent; philosophy and education, 306 volumes, .53 percent; theology, 215 volumes, .38 percent.

A librarian and two assistants are now necessary in order to properly serve the people. The books that have been added since the library was opened have all been carefully selected and are good standard works. The latest books of all the leading authors are secured as soon as published. A book may be kept for two weeks. Residents of Wheeling and taxpayers on property in the city, not under fourteen years of age, are entitled to draw books, which can be obtained upon all days except Sundays and holidays. On Sunday afternoons the reading room is open to the public.

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