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State Library of Ohio History

The State Library was one of the first state agencies created, established in 1817, to serve the information and research needs of state government.  As Ohio grew, so did the responsibilities of the agency, including the development of library services throughout Ohio.  Below is a timeline of notable events in the State Library's history.

State Librarians of Ohio - links to list of State Librarians


Ohio Governor Thomas Worthington 1814-1818

The Ohio State Library, later renamed State Library of Ohio, is established by Governor Thomas Worthington with a collection of 509 books. Located in the original State Office Building, the library serves as a depository for state records, maps, and laws and is open to state officials and members of the legislature.

Small image of first page of State Library's first catalog Click to view larger image of original catalog

John L. Harper was appointed as the first State Librarian and purchases first collection.

General Assembly established regulations for the Library to operate under the Governor.
Zachariah Mills was appointed first full-time State Librarian.
State Library’s first catalogue was published.
Legislature recognized the Library as a state institution and established an annual $200 salary for a three-year appointment as Librarian.
Governor, Secretary of State & the Librarian composed a Board of Commissioners created by the legislature.


The library moves to the State Capitol.

The legislature passes a law establishing a library board of commissioners, consisting of the Governor, Secretary of State, and the State Librarian.

Reorganization shortened the librarian’s term & opened the facility to the public.
Law Library collection was separated & became the Supreme Court of Ohio Law Library


The legislature enacts the Library Law of 1896 requiring the Senate to appoint the Board of Commissioners to a six–year term without compensation.

With the Governor's approval, the Board appoints the State Librarian.

The State Library creates a traveling library program. By 1927, the traveling library circulation has grown to 69,850 books.

Photo of Charles B. Galbreath Click to view larger image

Charles B. Galbreath began the first of three terms as State Librarian & ushered the Library into the 20th century.

Traveling Library program began.

Rutherford B. Hayes edited the first list of State publications.
  Click to view larger image


Library development program began - the position of Library Organizer is created to assist with statewide library development.

Legislative Reference Department was established.
Summer Library School began with State Librarian Charles B. Galbreath serving as secretary.
Governmental Reorganization Act made the Library a division of the Department of Education.
Board of Commissioners increased from three to five members.
Herbert S. Hirshberg was the first professional librarian appointed to head the agency.


Governor Donahey vetoes library appropriations, and on June 20, 1927, the library closes due to lack of funding. In August, the library reopens with a staff of volunteers led by the previous State Librarian, Charles B. Galbreath. Mr. Galbreath and other volunteers work for 11 months before being compensated for their services.


The library officially reopens.


Image of library when it was located in the Ohio Departments building in Columbus Click to view larger image

The State Library moves into the newly completed Ohio Departments Building, located at 65 South Front Street in downtown Columbus.

State Aid to Public Libraries Law added responsibility for developing county-wide libraries


The State Library begins to distribute funds to local libraries and to establish library service in rural areas of the state. $50,000 is appropriated in 1935; by 1952 that amount has doubled to $100,000.00.

Work began on the first union catalog of large public libraries in the country.


Library law is codified, setting the course for the library's current mission. The Library Organizer position has evolved into the Library Consultants program.


Seventy of Ohio's 88 counties have an extension or branch library. The traveling library has evolved into the bookmobile service. In 1953, 53 bookmobiles are operating in 37 counties.

State Library Board became an independent agency authorized by ORC 3375.01
Federal Library Services Act supplied funds for rural library service centers and bookmobile programs.
House Bill 27 granted the authority to distribute Ohio documents to depository libraries.


The Catalog Center opens to provide cataloging and processing services to public, school, academic, special, and institutional libraries.


Subsidy for National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped began

Shirley Sippola was appointed first director of the Southeastern Ohio Library Center (SEO) Regional Service Center in Caldwell.


With the enactment of U.S. Public Law 87–579, the State Library becomes the regional federal government documents depository for Ohio.

Bookmobile service began in eight counties in Southeast Ohio, with 6557 miles logged the 1st year.

Little Hoover Commission recommended the Library be closed.
Federal Library Services & Construction Act funds allowed renewed library development efforts.


According to the Union Bibliography of Ohio Printed State Documents 1803-1970 : “The name of the library was officially established as The State Library of Ohio in 1967”.

Statewide library services master plan was developed.
Report recommended legislative action to change the Board composition, which had not altered since it was established in 1955.
Governor Rhodes signed the Ohio Library Development Plan into law.
F. Ward Murrey became the 5th director of SEO, after starting out as a part-time employee there in 1961
Talking book machines began using cassette tapes.
Traveling Library program ended.
Microfilm Automated Catalog operations began.


The State Library opens the Tower Library Center in the Rhodes Tower Office Building.

Senate Bill 205 granted the authority to distribute legislative publications.
After repeated flooding, SEO moved from Olive Shopping Lane to a space on Marietta Road, which the State Library purchased 11 years later.


The State Library and The Ohio State University Libraries share a computerized catalog.

Distribution of talking book machines was reassigned to the Library.
Four SEO libraries formed a consortium for shared circulation.
SEO became a Talking Book lending agency.


Major renovation & expansion to five floors of the Ohio Departments Building.

Riffe Research Center opens, offering access through an online catalog to over four million titles in the State Library and The Ohio State University libraries.

Library Service for the Blind administrative costs became fully funded by the Library


The State Library of Ohio becomes a founding member of OhioLINK.

Michael S. Lucas became State Librarian & accompanied the Library into the 21st century.
Federal Library Services & Technology Act was passed.


OPLIN brings Internet connectivity to Ohio's public libraries.

SEO expanded its services to all Ohio public libraries
Mobile computer training lab went into service
Flooding at SEO caused the destruction of over 7700 books


The State Library ceases operation in the Ohio Departments Building.


The State Library of Ohio reopens for business in the Jeffrey Mining Corporate Center.

Expanded space at SEO was dedicated
SEO bookmobile service ended
Jo Budler became State Librarian


Southeastern Ohio Library Center changed its name to SEO Library Center (Serving All Ohioans)

State Library Board Testimony before The Senate Finance and Financial Institutions Committee
April 21, 2005

State Library Board Testimony before The Subcommittee on Higher Education Of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee
February 22, 2005

SEO Annex was acquired as a gift of the SOLO Regional Library System
Christine Tucker retired and Dianna Clark became the 7th director of SEO.
Genealogy collection was transferred to the Columbus Metropolitan Library.
Columbus branch of the Kent State University School of Library & Information Science relocated to remodeled space in the State Library, the first such partnership since 1889.
State Library set to begin distributing talking book machines with digital technology.
Beverly Cain became State Librarian.