Muskingum County Library System

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An organized approach to reading in Muskingum County dates back to around 1828, when a group incorporated as "The Athenaeum" offered paid subscriptions and used the proceeds to buy books for members. This "Athenaeum Library" continued as a subscription library until Zanesville began to grow and more residents expressed their desire for a free library. The Atheneum Library transferred its ownership to the Board of Education in 1904 and opened its collections to the public by the next year. The new organization was named John McIntire Library after the man known as the founder of the city of Zanesville.


As great as this was, the facility was too small for the population it served and was logistically difficult to navigate. Enter Andrew Carnegie. As he did in many small communities throughout the country, Carnegie donated a large sum — in this case, an initial pledge of $50,000 followed by an additional $2,500 — toward the building of a new library. In what is thought

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to be a first for Carnegie, he allowed the library to be built without attaching his name to it. Instead of "Carnegie Library," the name remained "John McIntire Library" when the new building was erected in downtown Zanesville. And, although it was progressive in expanding services to farmers and eventually anyone in the county, it still wasn't quite "free." Each patron paid $1 per year until 1932, when the fee was abandoned.

Over time, it became increasingly clear that the downtown location was not convenient for many county residents. A variety of interim solutions filled some of the need for other locations until the later part of the 20th century. The library transitioned from a school district library to a county library, changed its name to Muskingum County Library System, and added a number of new facilities while also expanding the original building. Today, MCLS consists of the
John McIntire Library (60,993 square feet, which includes the original building from the Carnegie era), Dresden Branch Library (4,975 square feet), New Concord Branch Library (5,120 square feet), South Zanesville Branch Library (2,604 square feet), Roseville Branch Library (1,915 square feet), and the Duncan Falls/Philo Branch Library (3,480 square feet). All of the locations have undergone renovations of varying degrees since 2005. Outreach services staff travel to nursing homes, daycares, and other locations to provide resources to people who otherwise may not be able to travel to one of the library locations for such services.

Together, MCLS facilities serve a county population of more than 86,000 people with a staff of 42 full-time and 24 part-time employees and an operating budget of approximately $4.8 million, adjusted for pandemic-related cuts. Total circulation in 2019 was nearly 701,700 items. The physical collection includes more than 187,000 items, including 85,201 adult books, 5,978 YA books, and 55,872 children's books; 8,053 audiobooks and 5,579 music CDs; 22,866 DVDs, 2,246 periodicals, 757 video games, and 780 other items such as hot spots, tables, games, and puzzles. The
e-collection includes 348,898 ebooks, 356,444 downloadable audio items, and 16,410 downloadable videos.

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In FY2019, the library hosted a total of 1,152 programs, welcoming 30,095 attendees. Other highlights of the library include its Genealogy resources, Carnegie Wing Gallery, Auditorium with seating for almost 200 people, and Historic Artwall. The library newsletter is a great source of information for learning about the library's resources and upcoming events.

The Board of Trustees, which governs the library, consists of seven members appointed to staggered terms by two different governmental organizations. The Friends of the Library support MCLS through their fundraising and volunteer efforts. The library is a member of the Ohio Library Council and Ohionet.

Photos courtesy of Muskingum County Library System