WHEELING – Ohio County Library Director Dottie Thomas was born to be a librarian. As a child, she lent her own books to other children in the neighborhood and put date stamps on them.
Now Thomas is about to close the chapter of his adult career in the stacks.
She announced that she would retire on December 31. She began her position as director on January 1, 1997.
âI will mark 25 full years as a director,â she said. “I’ve been past retirement age for a few years, so I think it’s time to hand over the reins to a new director.”
Thomas said she would spend time with her four children and eight grandchildren, who all live in the area. She is also an active volunteer at St. Vincent dePaul Church.
Thomas said she wasn’t the quiet librarian type.
âNo, really I’m not,â she said. âI was a great reader when I was a child. I have always loved books, owning them and having my own books. …
âBut I never dreamed of a career in libraries until the opportunity presented itself. I love that the library has given me a career opportunity, and it has been a great career.
Thomas graduated from Old West Liberty State College, where she received degrees in English and History.
But she saw a job offer for a children’s specialist at the Ohio County Library and started there in September 1987. She will remain at that job until December 1988, when she left. to pursue library studies at the University of Pittsburgh.
She would be hired as assistant director at the Mary H. Weir Library in Weirton after graduating in 1990, and became director of the library in Pittsburg, Kansas in 1992.
Thomas would return to Wheeling to become director of the Ohio County Library in early 1997.
She admitted that the library had to be reinvented since that time.
âThe internet has changed things,â she said. âIt really took off in the late 1990s. When I came back here as director, we had some access, but it has widened since then. “
Thomas said that libraries fulfill five main roles in a community. The first two are to make information available to the public and to provide educational opportunities. Second, the library is a place where patrons can find hobbies in the form of fiction books, DVDs, musical CDs, and reading and listening information.
It should also serve as a community center, as well as a venue for cultural and historical programs.
Thomas said the library’s community room is widely used. While activities were reduced there during the pandemic, it is once again busy most evenings. The library has also expanded its cultural and historical programming in recent years, and the local history hall has room for growth.
Library staff, meanwhile, looked after the special archives room on the lower level of the library. This is where they continue to catalog and make accessible elements of local history.
There are children’s programs, as well as a children’s specialist who goes to schools to read to children.
For adults, the library offers âLunch With Booksâ and âPeople’s Universityâ programs.
Still, there are people who can’t come to the library, according to Thomas. The library no longer has a bookmobile, but it does have a van that delivers materials to those who request them at home.
âWe’ve expanded our reach to people who can’t make it to the library,â she said. âWe don’t have bookmobiles anymore because there aren’t as many stay-at-home parents. And the elderly told us that they had problems coming to the library.
The van now regularly delivers books and items such as compact discs to high-rise buildings, retirement homes, and single-family homes where people are confined to their homes.
Thomas looks back with joy on his career.
” I loved. I loved this library, âshe said. âAnyone who visits West Virginia libraries knows we have the best in the state. We have the most meeting rooms and the most space. And we were able to expand the five roles of the library.