Library card looking good

Island library services are unique.
Tom Jackson
Nov 25, 2013
The staff at the Erie Islands Library on Put-in-Bay contend their library card — sporting an aerial photo of the island with the Perry Monument in the center — is the best-looking in the state.

But it’s not their only claim to fame. A branch of Port Clinton’s Ida Rupp library, it operates in the Put-in-Bay school district’s building with three parttime employees and one substitute.

“This library is one of the more phenomenal libraries I have ever been in,” said South Bass Island resident Susan Amrine, as she checked out a stack of books Wednesday afternoon.    

The Erie Islands Library is believed to be one of only two Ohio libraries that operate on an island. The other is the library on Kelleys Island, which is a branch of the Sandusky Library.

Amrine said four generations of her family use the library.

Materials on site are limited to what can be squeezed into a well-maintained, nicelycarpeted large room in the school building, which doubles as both a school library and a public library.

But the library is part of a larger network. As a branch of the Port Clinton library, it’s part of the Serving Every Ohioan consortium of dozens of libraries across Ohio that share materials. So the materials patrons can check out include books, movies and audiobooks from any member library. They are flown onto the island even in winter, when the ferries quit running.

The branch also has the SEO consortium’s digital offerings, which means island residents can check out ebooks and other materials without having to leave their homes.

“They get in everything you want,” Amrine said.

She said if she phones ahead, the library staff will get her books ready so she can quickly pop in and out.

“They’ll have them piled up. You walk in and get them,” she said.

Although the branch library has a limited budget, Ida Rupp tries to make sure it has many of the same services a larger facility offers, said Deborah Loiacono, director of the Rupp Library.

Erie Islands Library has wi-fi Internet for patrons and provides them with computer terminals.

Because of budget limitations, the branch has limited hours. It’s open for 18 hours during some weeks and 20 hours during others (on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month, it’s open from 10 a.m. to noon).

But the library makes a point of staggering its hours so everyone has access. In addition to the two Saturdays a month, it’s open Tuesday and Thursday nights from 5 to 8 p.m., as well as offering daytime hours during mornings and afternoons, three hours at a time.

The only long day is Wednesday, when it’s open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“It’s just a good middle-of-the-week day to be open all day,” said Linda Rence, the branch manager.

Hours at Erie Islands Branch Library likely will increase if the library passes a planned renewal levy in May, Loiacano said.

The library also offers many of the programs larger libraries have. There are two book clubs, which meet in private homes but obtain books at the library. There’s a cookbook club and programs for children, such as a Lego Club and a Stuck on Duct Tape! program, which the library hosted a few days ago.

The duct tape program proved to be popular.

“We had 20 kids show up for that,” Rence said.

The library also takes pride in its large collection of movie titles. “We have a large DVD collection, which is really popular, especially in the winter,” said Karen Wilhelm, one of the library employees. Reading also is popular among the island’s residents during the winter months, Loiacono said. “They are voracious readers in the winter,” she said.