February 2009 Issue
For those who have ever painstakingly scanned the stacks of the local library only to realize, with at least a little frustration, that the rare book they’ve so diligently searched for is not among those on the shelves, there is the Ohioana Library Association.
Formed in 1929 by Ohio first lady Martha Kinney Cooper, the Ohioana is not the average library collection — for starters, the books cannot be checked out, and the latest John Grisham novel is probably not among the titles on its vast shelves. Instead, the collection acts as one of the truest testaments to Ohio culture, featuring books, musical scores, illustrations and biographies of and by Ohioans, available for use in the Ohioana reading room in Columbus. In a nutshell, it’s the place to come for a glimpse into the Buckeye state through some incredibly well-versed points of view.
“Unlike a public library, which simply orders books based on popularity, the Ohioana books have a much more significant meaning when collected,” Linda Hengst, executive director of the Ohioana Library Association, says. “There are things here that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.”
Titles are chosen based on the author’s relationship to Ohio; he or she must have been born or lived in the state for a minimum of five years.
The collection has a broader focus than one might expect. “It’s not all about Ohio,” Hengst says. “Instead, it’s a study of the culture of Ohioans, what they’ve read, what they’ve written.”
Between 500 and 600 books were acquired in the first year, donated by publishers, authors and friends. Today,
95 percent of the collection — more than 45,000 books — has been accumulated through contributions from literature and Ohio enthusiasts alike.
This year, Ohioana celebrates its 80th anniversary. When asked what the future holds for the library, Hengst replies simply, “As long as Ohio has writers, we should be celebrating them.”
For more information about the Ohioana Library Association, visit www.ohioana.org