The Library's history traces back to 1810, seven years after Ohio became a state, when literate Yankee settlers formed the Washington Social Library Company. This joint stock company was modeled after America's first subscription library founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731. Chartered by the newly elected General Assembly of the State of Ohio, the Washington Social Library Company flourished for some thirty years, until 1840.
Forerunner of the public library was the Centerville Library Club, organized circa 1900. The Rev. B. F. Vaughn, Ida Weller, and other community leaders met in members' homes for literary programs and raised funds for books by sponsoring theater productions and lyceums. In 1930, they turned over their collection of some 150 volumes to the newly incorporated Washington Township Public Library. Seven Library trustees were appointed by the Board of Education, as they are now, and tax monies were made available by the Montgomery County auditor.
Increases in population during the post-World War II period translated to increases in Library usage. From 1955 to 1960 the number of books and users doubled. As the area changed from a rural setting to a suburban community, expanded Library services became imperative.
In 1961, a new building, the Centerville Library, was constructed at 105 Virginia Avenue on land provided by the Board of Education for $1.00. The new facility was named for Centerville, Ohio, an early settlement on the trail between Dayton and Cincinnati. This settlement, situated on the divide between the Little Miami and Great Miami Rivers, was so named because it flourished as a hub of activity, equidistant from several early towns. Centerville's first residents replaced early crude log houses with limestone homes, built for permanence and still remaining today. The Centerville Library opened to the public in 1962, with additions opening in 1964 and 1972 to accommodate the increasing number of users.
In the early 1970s, the Library Board began planning an additional library to serve the northern part of the community. A storefront North Branch was opened in the Washington Square Shopping Center in January of 1974. The popularity of that "Little Library" prompted the trustees to arrange for yet a larger library facility. Also, at this time, the first professional Library Director was hired to direct the library. Among her first duties were the planning of the new facility and the development of a collection for that library. The larger facility opened in a converted bank building at 6060 Far Hills Avenue in 1980, replacing the popular North Branch. The new building was named Woodbourne Library, after another early settlement no longer in existence.
Growth and Change
The next century of Library service began to take shape with a series of changes in the 1990s. In 1991, the Library system changed its name from Washington Township Public Library to Washington-Centerville Public Library. Programs and discussions on employee empowerment provided the inception of a forward-thinking business approach. A bond issue was placed on the ballot in 1993 to complete the capital fund for construction of the new Centerville Library, and was passed with the assistance of over 650 volunteers informing voters. In 1994, Washington-Centerville Public Library became fully-automated, as the new Dynix system was installed. All circulation activity was now on-line, allowing patron records and catalog information to be transferred between, and instantly updated at each Library building.
A New, "Million-Story" Building
On February 20, 1995, the new Centerville Library opened at 111 West Spring Valley Road, replacing the old Virginia Avenue branch. This newest and largest of the Washington-Centerville Public Library facilities includes 31,600 total square feet plus a mechanical mezzanine, with 1,100 square feet of program space, a board room, and a maximum capacity of 200,000 volumes. As the headquarters location, Centerville Library also houses the technical processing center and administrative offices for Washington-Centerville Public Library. It was designed to be "user-friendly", spacious, accessible to the physically impaired, and wired for current and future technology needs.
These stations provided access to full text magazine databases, as well as CD-ROM databases selected by the Library. Some stations provided full access to the Internet. Two beautiful sculptures were dedicated in 1996 and 1997 - Gary Price's "Storytime" at Woodbourne Library, and Michael Frasca's "The Record" at Centerville Library.
National Recognition, Funding Changes, New Services
In 1998, Hennen's American Public Rating Index (HAPLR) ranked Washington-Centerville Public Library 2nd in the nation among libraries with a population 10,000-99,999. This reflected the hard work of the 113 employees that staffed the Library during this year. In 1998, the state and local funding formula changed. The funding formula recognized the new, larger facility and increased size and cost of operations. Prior to this change, the local operating levy accounted for 50% of the Library's income. The new formula shifted this percentage resulting in 50% from state and 41% from the local levy. The Teen Advisory Board debuted in August of 1998, giving teens the opportunity to work on programs, contests, material suggestions, and the website.
In August of 1999, Washington-Centerville Public Library was ranked 1st in the nation among libraries of similar size and larger. HAPLR ranked the Library 3rd in the nation among all 9,000 libraries. Also in 1999, the Woodbourne Library Refurbishment project was completed, giving the Library a fresh, new look.
The Library also added two new services in 1999. First, DVDs were made available for loan as more patrons began to purchase DVD players. New Library multipurpose cards were also introduced. With the new card patrons could checkout as well as pay for copies and Internet printing using the debit capabilities of the card.
A Busy Y2K
The year 2000 was a big year for Washington-Centerville Public Library. The Library ranked #1 again in the population category while climbing to #2 among all libraries. The Library was the only Ohio library to place first this time and one of only three libraries to place first in 2000 and 1999. In 2000, the Library was ranked the 16th busiest library among Ohio's 250 libraries. This is a jump of ten positions in the past ten years.
Former Board President and long time Library trustee, Mrs. Yeck, established the Dorothy R. Yeck Endowment for the Arts at Woodbourne Library in 2000. The endowment is intended to further the arts at Woodbourne Library. Also, Winifred Dewey, a 16 year member of the Library Board, established the John P. Dewey Business Endowment in the name of her late husband, John P. Dewey, who served ten years on the Washington-Centerville Public Library Board of Trustees. The gift endows purchase of business and travel materials and business services enhancement.
A new website was designed in 2000 to offer more service to the patrons. The website became an interactive gateway to Library and information services and provided a more unified Library image. New services included online program registration and catalog access.
In 2001, Washington-Centerville Public Library ranked 1st again in the population category. A ten-year report to the community showed efficiency and growth. The report showed that over the ten year time period Library usage quadrupled, reference questions jumped 263%, and over a quarter million new items were added, increasing circulation 83%. 2002 proved to be yet another successful year for Washington-Centerville Public Library. Again, the Library was ranked 1st among libraries of similar size and 2nd among the nation's 7,000 libraries. Also in 2002, a new ten-year operating levy passed by an outstanding 66% margin.
Levy Passage Results in New Services
Number of Items Checked Out Tops 2 Million
Annual circulation of materials surpassed the 2 million items mark in 2003, and the HAPLR index once again ranked the Library #1 for the fourth consecutive year. Library traffic of all kinds grew by leaps and bounds, with over 670,000 visitors through the doors, and more than 300,000 visitors to the Library's website (over 1.8 million hits). Records were shattered for number of reference questions asked, information station usage, audio-visual circulation, and more, yet the Library was more efficient than ever, reducing its expenditures in response to shortfalls in funding.
Library Ranks 10th Busiest in the State Among Public Libraries
Citizens checked out more than 2.2 million items in 2004 bringing the per capita circulation to 42 items - 3 times that of the national average! It also marked the first year that audiovisual materials such as movies, music and audiobooks surpassed print materials in circulation. Visits to the Library were up by 9% in 2004, resulting in over 700,000 visits to the physical Libraries and more than 350,000 visits to the website.
A new Digital Collection debuted in 2005 that made it possible for patrons to check out and download eBooks and eAudiobooks right from home or work. This marked the continuation of the Library's commitment to offering more Web-based and technological services that make the Library even more convenient.
2006 marked the debut of new formats like Playaway - portable book/media player all in one - and Express Collection Movies - new release DVDs for quick loan. In addition, more books in Spanish, Hindi, Chinese and Korean were added for adults and children. New services like Express Select - prepackaged bundles of books, movies and music on a specific topic - and WiFi made using the Library even more convenient.To further support early literacy, the Library added several programs including Baby Summer Reading Club for newborns thru age 3, and Prime Time Family Reading Time - a program designed specifically for 'at-risk' families.
Celebrating the Good Life
Being Good + Doing Good = Having Fun + Being Happy.
"Most Beautiful Book Ever Written" now at Centerville Library
The Book of Kells series delivered the most successful programs in Library history, setting new community and organizational standards for quality. Programs were diverse and interactive featuring the history of the period in year one and Illuminating the Times and the arts in year two. The Amazing Art of Kells and Scholar Series presentations by local and nationally renowned experts in the field of medieval history were a part of both years.
More than 18,000 people attended the programs and more than 12,000 visited the exhibits which counted 32 organizations as collaborators, including universities, associations, the Centerville Arts Commission, Centerville City Schools, Society for Creative Anachronism, Washington-Centerville Library Foundation, and Washington Township’s Town Hall Theatre.
New Library Catalog Offers Patrons More Features and Functionality
In October 2007, the Library replaced a 14-year-old catalog system with a new system called Millennium. The system offers patrons some of the most up-to-date technology available including new features like courtesy email reminder notices of upcoming due dates, an optional reading history to track previously checked out materials, and more user-friendly and robust searching features for eCatalog.
A Pattern of Innovation and Excellence
In 2008, Washington-Centerville Public Library ranked #1 for the sixth time in its population category, making it the longest continuous #1 ranking of any library in the country – while still ranking above the state’s average in efficiency. Of Ohio’s 251 libraries, Washington-Centerville Public Library ranks as the 12th busiest. The total cardholder base grows to more than 70,000 as new patron card registrations increase by 15 percent.
Kids Get Their Own Website
Library at the Forefront with Video Games
Washington-Centerville Public Library continued its innovative approach to service and materials with the introduction of video games for Nintendo’s Wii, PlayStation 2, 3, and Xbox 360. One of only a handful of libraries in the state to offer video games, the collection set records from the start. On the very first day, patrons checked out 64% of the video games available. The success of the collection sparked the Library to order an additional 500 new games, with an eye toward expanding to other gaming platforms in the future.
Market Driven Collections
Thanks to a market-driven selection philosophy, checkout of materials remained an impressive 2.2 million. Despite the introduction of new audiovisual collections, check out of books grew almost 7% over the previous year. Teen books in particular showed strong gains with an 18% increase - proving that teenagers value reading as much as technology.
Convenient and Civic-Minded Services
Reference and Technology services continued to gain new cyber ground with the addition of text messaging reference services, the expansion of home-accessible research databases, as well as a growing lineup of Library Blogs. Library blogs offer patrons a convenient way to get new book suggestions, business information, and provides a forum for teens to share views on books and music.
Library Collections and Services Assist During Recession
200 Years of Great Books, Great Libraries
Communicating the Need for Local Support
A comprehensive campaign was designed to further inform and persuade citizens to Support Our Library, Our Future. Despite citizen concerns about high taxes, the Library’s 3.0 mill operating levy passed by 61%. More impressively, the levy passed in 100% of the voting precincts, proving support for the Library exists throughout our community. The approved levy will supply the Library with operating revenue from 2013-2023.
eCollections & Library Hours Expand
The easiest way to increase access to library materials is for the facility to be open. The Library responded to community survey input by implementing Sunday hours during the summer at Centerville Library beginning July 8, 2012.
While print and Audio/Visual circulation return to pre-recession levels, the Digital Collection circulation skyrockets – up nearly 110% for 2012 and is renamed the "eCollection" to encompass new digital items like eMusic and eZines. As a complement to the digital content available, the Library began circulating 10 Kobo eReaders in November 2012.
Supporting Early Literacy
Continuing Education and Enlightenment at the Library
In tandem with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Library also hosted a national travelling exhibit, funded by an American Library Association Grant, called Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War. The exhibit drew more than 35,000 visitors over its six-week stay at the Centerville Library and almost 1,8000 attended the scholar series and programs for children and teens that complemented the exhibit. The exhibit was a first of its kind for the Library.
Checkouts Continue to Grow
Improving the Patron Experience
In addition, the Library purchased the McDonalds property adjacent to the Cataloging Center. This property, which will be used initially as a staging site for the rear egress project, will open many new opportunities for the Woodbourne Library property. Progress was also made to develop a rear egress driveway at Woodbourne Library thanks to the Library Board of Trustees, the City of Centerville, Washington Township, the Conner Group and Mr. Wang, owner of North China restaurant.
To learn about the Library’s most recent history, please visit our Annual Report page.