For nearly seventy-five years the library in the Ashtabula Harbor has been serving the educational and recreational needs of the school and public through its services, information resources, and facilities. The Harbor Free Public Library was established in May of 1924 by the Harbor School District Board of Education and a room was allocated for it on the first floor of Harbor High School on 221 Lake Avenue where Lake Avenue meets Walnut Boulevard.
By 1926, it was determined that a separate facility was necessary to serve the youngest patrons. The Harbor Library was divided into an Adults' Library located in the High School and the Children's Library housed in the first floor of a two story frame structure located next door to Harbor High. This second building was known as the Haskins' Building after its last owner, Salina Haskins, and the second floor housed a community health clinic. Even with two library quarters, the collection soon outgrew the space available and the Adults' Library expanded to use two of the Harbor High School rooms in 1934. In 1952 the Haskins' Building was demolished to make room for an expansion of Harbor High school and the Children's Library was relocated to a room in Washington Elementary School, 917 Lake Avenue.
Early on in the relationship, the citizens acknowledged the need for a separate library building; funds were set aside by the school board for library construction. In a time of financial crisis, however, this money was reallocated to the school general fund and the plan for a library building was abandoned until the 1950's.
In June of 1958 Mr. O. C. Topky, a local businessman, donated the money to construct a library in the Ashtabula Harbor. City property on 1633 Walnut Boulevard, across the street from Harbor High School, was selected as the site for this endeavor. In August 1959 the Topky Memorial Library, a one story 50' by 100' building, opened to serve the adult community. Soon afterwards materials from the Children's Library also were moved into the Topky Library, and the two services were re-integrated. The Topky Library building remained fairly unchanged with only minor changes until the 1984 addition. In June 1967, air conditioning was installed, and in August 1971 a parking lot was surfaced. Office space and a new doorway were created in 1980.
Twelve citizens established The Friends of the Library in 1977. This number has increased to include more than 125 members who support the library in a number of ways. Most recently, using money from book sales and membership drives, they purchased an outdoor message board. Annually they sponsor a creative writing contest for area children and a tree decorating contest. Through the years the library's collection and services expanded greatly, leaving little space for storytime programs or pleasure reading. The Library Board saw a need to create a multi-purpose meeting room and expandthe children's department. A 25' x 100' addition to the back wall of the Topky Library was dedicated in October, 1984. The expansion was made possible by a grant from the Library Services and Construction Act and matched funds by the Ashtabula Foundation the Library's Trust Fund.
The library joined the computer age in 1983 with its first purchase of a microcomputer for use by the staff and patrons. In 1986 Harbor Topky became the first library in the county to use a computerized circulation system, tracking materials with an Apple IIe computer.
In July of 1987 an outreach program to serve homebound senior citizens was begun. Our outreach coordinator brings books, books on tape, magazines, videotapes, other materials, and a bit of sunshine to individuals' homes and nursing homes.
During the year 1996, the library was transformed from a library largely focused on providing books to a library ready to serve in the twenty-first century. In June of 1996, the library came online with the county-wide Council of Ashtabula County Libraries Dynix circulation and cataloging system ushering in an age of easy interlibrary lending and borrowing. Patrons can now dial into the catalog from home to reserve materials from across the county and access a text-based Internet service.
In August 1996 the Learning/Writing and Junior Learning/Writing Centers were established with IBM-compatible and Apple computers purchase through an LSCA mini-grant and matching library funds. These computers are equipped with word processing, resume writing, home-publishing, and educational game programs as well as encyclopedias and other programs on CD-ROM's. In September 1996 the library started using these computers to access Internet resources through the Ohio Public Library Information Network.
Through the years, the library has gained a reputation as "the friendly library by the lake" with an emphasis on service to the public and the schools. The library maintains its ties to Harbor High School, serving as an off-campus building of sorts, that teachers and students use during and after the school day. Harbor Topky Memorial Public Library is a dynamic center for community gathering, providing programs for citizens of all ages, from the storytime and toy-lending for the three month old to the home visitations for the senior citizen.
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