By Linda Dillman
Long before library branches sprang up in southeast Franklin County and bookmobiles served as portable libraries to reach villages like Canal Winchester and Lockbourne, county library stations dotted the landscape in local schools.
According to “Columbus Metropolitan Library: Celebrating 150 Years,” a commemorative publication detailing library history from 1873 to the present, library services were provided throughout the county by school-based county stations starting in 1937 with the first station located in a Canal Winchester school building.
The Lockbourne station was next in the line of 11 stations when it opened in April 1938 in a two-story, four-room brick schoolhouse on Vause Street, which now serves as the town’s event center.
Library board members, county officials, teachers, parents ,and pupils attended the 1938 grand opening of the new county station the night of April 28.
In an “Ohio State Journal” newspaper archive from the time, the Lockbourne library, housed on the second floor of the school, opened with 450 volumes of fiction, travel, and biography with another 150 volumes added later. It serviced 2,900 township residents.
“I remember the library being in a separate nook in the west corner on the second floor,” said lifelong Lockbourne resident and former Lockbourne school student Cora “Coke” Bethel.
Principal Earl Soliday served as librarian during the school year with members of a local 4-H club taking over during the summer break.
The Lockbourne station closed in November 1950 when Hamilton Township opened a new elementary school on Rathmell Road. Like its Canal Winchester counterpart, which closed in 1963, local services were transferred to bookmobiles.
According to the “Journal” article provided by Angela O’Neal, Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Local History and Genealogy manager, “Encouraged by the success of the Canal Winchester station, which was established a year and a half ago, the library trustees requested and received from the (Franklin County) commissioners last fall funds sufficient to establish 10 more such stations. The term station has been used to differentiate the projects outside the city from the five library branches in Columbus.”
The “Journal” article noted that the Canal Winchester station opened with only 60 books, but eventually expanded to 600. During the summer of 1937, the library averaged 80 withdrawals a week and by 1953, was one of the busiest stations in the library system before it closed 10 years later.
Today, the Columbus Metropolitan Library system has 23 locations and expects to start construction on a new Canal Winchester branch sometime next year. Lockbourne and the Hamilton Township area is now serviced by the South High branch, located at 3540 S. High St., Columbus.
Visit www.columbuslibrary.org or call 614-645-2275 for library information.