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Wadsworth Public Library is an independent public library serving the Wadsworth area, city, and township. The Library is primarily funded by proceeds from two local operating levies and a set percentage of state income tax revenue known as the Public Library Fund (PLF).
A seven-member Board of Trustees governs the Library. By Ohio law, each trustee serves a seven-year term. The Library's taxing authority is the Wadsworth City Board of Education, which approves selection of Library board members and which, at the Library's request, may place ballot issues before the public.
Ohio’s public libraries are renowned, both nationally and internationally, for their consistently high rankings and Wadsworth Public Library has itself ranked among the top 10 public libraries in its population category and has received the Ohio Library Council’s Innovation Award. At a time of general decline in library use, patron engagement is on the rise at Wadsworth Public Library, galvanized by strong public support and an evolving mix of collections, programs and services.
The Library is a member of the Search Ohio group of resource-sharing libraries which includes library systems from around Ohio, and OhioLINK, a network of Ohio's college and university libraries.
Early community leader Judge Frederick Brown, the uncle of abolitionist John Brown and the first settler within the current city limits of Wadsworth, established Wadsworth’s first circulating library in 1822 with books he transported from Connecticut to Wadsworth in a one-horse carriage. This pioneer library was run by the Wadsworth Female Library Association headed by Mrs. Frederick Brown.
One hundred years later, the Wadsworth Federation of Women’s Clubs donated $50 to establish a permanent public library. Two hundred books borrowed from the State Library were housed in a room of what is now Central Intermediate School. The books were primarily used by students, and the Library was supervised by a committee of the Women’s Club.
Still run by the Women’s Club, the Library was moved out of the school and into a tiny room on the second floor of what has successively been known as the Albrect, Brenneman, and O’Neill building on the northeast corner of High and Broad Streets. Less than a year later, the books were moved to the mayor’s office which was down the hall in the same building. Mayor Fred Falk designated most of his office for library use.
Collections had grown to over 2,600 volumes with a reported monthly circulation of 1,000. In the spring of that year, Mrs. Ella Everhard paid $17,000 for the Dr. Thomas Leiter house on the site of the present library building. She donated it to the village for use as a public library and to house women’s cultural activities.
The Library became a school district library, a change which prepared it well for forthcoming 1933 changes in state law that would usher in the era of financial support from the state of Ohio through the intangible personal property tax. The increase in support allowed the Library to expand its collections and services to meet growing community need.
After determining that the old Leiter house was no longer adequate as a public library (for reasons of safety and capacity), voters passed a bond issue to construct a new library building.
The new facility opened in February and ushered in a new era of growth as circulation and Library usage continued to grow.
Under the leadership of Director Eileen Flowers, Wadsworth Public Library entered the era of library automation by joining the Clevnet cooperative. At this point, only staff members interfaced with the digital catalogue.
That same year, the Library purchased adjacent property, and voters passed a $1.6 million bond issue for renovation and expansion of the building.
Ground breaking for the new addition took place in June.
The grand opening of the new building took place one year later, in June.
Sunday hours began in fall, and the property across Lyman St. was purchased for additional parking in December.
Public access to the online catalog and commercial databases was introduced with the installation of public computer terminals. Wadsworth Public Library patrons entered the digital age of library service.
Under the leadership of Director C. Allen Nichols, the Library determined that a renovation and expansion were needed to provide the quality of service the community required. Voters passed a bond issue to fund a 14,000-square-foot addition to the library and to renovate the existing building.
The expansion and renovation was completed and dedicated on March 9.
Later that year, the Library partnered with the Wadsworth City School District to help further its commitment to literacy and student success in the Wadsworth Community by providing enhanced services and collections to teachers and students.
The Library made the decision to leave CLEVNET and join the Search Ohio network of Ohio libraries, which includes Cuyahoga County Public Library, Akron-Summit County Public Library, Stark County District Library, and the libraries of Youngstown, Toledo, Westerville, Portage County, Massillon and Warren, among others.
In response to significant funding cuts from the state during the financial crisis, the Library was forced to reduce hours and services.
The Search Ohio network expanded to include OhioLINK, a consortium of Ohio’s college and university libraries. This change brought the wide variety of materials available from Ohio’s academic libraries within convenient reach of Wadsworth Public Library Patrons.
Recognizing the need to restore services, voters passed a 1-mil, 5-year additional operating levy.
With additional public support beginning in January, the Library began a process of rebuilding through restoration of operating hours, programs and services.
A record, all-time high level of child participation in the Library’s summer reading program took place, with 1,949 total registered readers who read for a combined 9,669 hours.
In response to community feedback the Library initiated year-round, Sunday operating hours.
Significant growth in child and family engagement were also gained, with another record-breaking accomplishment. This time, in the highest ever overall level of children’s participation in all activities, which increased by 38% to a total of 21,730 in-attendance at 465 programs.