New South Parkersburg Library opens to public

PARKERSBURG – It may have been 43 years in the making, but the instant public library built along Blizzard Drive has been replaced by a permanent structure that is much larger in both building size and materials available.

Brian Raitz, director of the Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library, said the new branch that opened Saturday has been a need for several years.

“This day is really about the community and our enjoyment of the new library,” he said Saturday during a grand opening ceremony for the new branch.

Raitz said libraries are important to him since from a young age he enjoyed reading and enjoyed going to book stores and libraries.

“I’m one of those people who go into a library and the bigger the better and it’s just like a world of opportunities. Sometimes I go in there and not get anything, I just want to be there,” he said.

Prior to 1967, Raitz said the county library system was run by the Wood County Board of Education and then it became an independent entity. That was also the year the library hired its first professional librarian, Dorothy Chittum.

“I looked up the definition of libraries,” said Chittum, who attended Saturday’s event. “Libraries are a collection of graphic materials such as books, films, magazines, manuscripts and phonograph records designed for use. The phrase ‘for use’ is important since books and other materials brought together do not necessarily constitute a library, thus copies recent books in a publisher’s warehouse to be sold are not libraries.”

Chittum said a shelf of cookbooks and recipes in a house qualifies as a library. She said for the new branch to be a true library it must be used. The original south branch built in 1972 was what was called an “instant library” and it was the first one built in the state and in the U.S.

“They were not meant to be permanent,” said Ann Cushing who was the librarian after Chittum and then recommended Raitz for the job he has today. “We went from a temporary library to a permanent library and it only took 43 years.”

When Chittum took over, the library was in the Carnegie Library building – now the former Trans Allegheny Book Store – and was director when the current library was built on Emerson Avenue.

Raitz said there are plans for landscaping at the new site in the spring and also work to get a new levy passed to pay for the building and for its continued operation.

When Raitz came to the library, the biggest complaint was about the entrance at the Emerson Avenue facility.

“Most of the complaints are the entrance should not be there, it should be from the parking lot,” he said. “We started to look at that and then I visited the branch and saw our biggest need was a new branch on the south side.”

However, he said the project to move the main facility entrance is the next project for the library system.

Raitz said the new south branch library is four times larger than the old branch, and has 13,000 circulating items.

“The biggest difference is we now have space for people to come in and to relax; either to sit down and read a book or a newspaper or even visit,” he said. “We didn’t have that space in the old branch library.”

Lindsay Place, manager of the South Parkersburg Library, said being the manager of the new branch is exciting.

“It is exciting to be able to know you will be able to do so many more new things for the community,” she said. “We are going to do a lot of programming for all ages and partnering with community businesses and going out to the schools and have the schools come here.”

With the increased space comes a lot more to chose from, she said.

“We have more than doubled the collection,” she said. “We have more technology and meeting room space so businesses and community groups can come and have meetings in the library.”

Beginning Monday, the branch’s hours will be Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and closed Sundays.