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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Miss Hill, or Mrs. Cline

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, August 28, 2016



Earlier this summer, I was asked how long I have written the “library article” for the Herald-Star?


Well, the answer is 33 years, the entire time that I have been employed as the Director of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.


In that time, the format has changed, the title has been altered, and there were a couple of gaps when I had surgery and Sandy Day filled in with genealogical articles.


Otherwise, every Sunday a library article has appeared.


For 6 years before becoming the Library Director here, I directed a different small library in northwestern Ohio and there I authored a monthly column about the library with another format.


I enjoy writing the weekly article, and I think it is important for the public to know that the library system exists and provides great services.


Even if you don’t read every single article that I write, just being aware of the article and the fact that a wonderful library system exists in Jefferson County.


Seeing my photo in the newspaper, people often comment in restaurants, shops, and any time I am out in the public; “Aren’t you the library guy?”


I am clearly remembering my very “first” library submission which took place in April 1972 when I was a student worker at the Washington County Public Library in my hometown of Marietta.


I was rolling my book cart in the library stacks when the Director came up to me and said, “Alan, have you read a new book recently that you would like to write about?”


Looking puzzled, I responded that I had just finished “Dove” by Robin Lee Graham, a 16 year old boy who sailed around the world in his 24 ft. boat.


“Great, would you like to write a review for the newspaper?  Everyone else is off-work and we need it by tomorrow!”   Good grief, what had I been asked to do?


I was a senior in high school, and was just finishing a course called, “Creative Writing” and felt I was ready to take on the task of writing a book review for the library to appear in the Saturday newspaper.


Actually, I signed up for the class because I had run out of college prep classes and it sounded interesting.  It was being taught by Mrs. Cline, obviously a new teacher as I didn’t recognize her name.


The first day of class I found Miss Hill standing in the front of the room.  Oh no, she had been my 10th grade English teacher, and I didn’t do all that well in her class, and I wasn’t sure she even liked me.


Yes, she had gotten married, unknown to me, and here she stood in front of a class of only 12 students.


It was a wonderful year; we wrote and wrote, no red teacher pens were used.  It was a positive experience and everyone had fun!


My book review appeared in the newspaper, and my mother said it was the finest thing she said that she had ever read.  Today, a copy of “Dove” sits on the shelf in my office.


Early this summer, I was thinking about that Creative Writing class, and wondered if Mrs. Cline was “still around” someplace.  A brief Internet search found her to be President of the Retired Teachers Association in Marietta and I even found her address.


The letter that I wrote was one of the most careful documents I have ever written, as I could imagine that red pen from the Miss Hill days probably still existed.


The return letter began with “I looked at the return address on your envelop; and wondered if indeed this was the Alan Hall of the Creative Writing class of 1971-72?”


Mrs. Cline’s delightful response expressed gladness that I had written, and it was the letter that all retired teachers desire to receive knowing that their teaching 45 years earlier had a positive influence on their students.


So, as long as I continue writing these articles, know that Miss Hill, or Mrs. Cline is looking over my shoulder making comments; and my mother is looking down saying that this article is the “best thing she has ever read.”