Forty-six years ago this month, the Greene County Room at the Greene County District Library was established.
At the time John Wallach was the library director. He realized that materials relating to the history and geography of the county were located in a variety of places in the library. He asked Louise Hutchison, one of the employees, to gather the information into one location. She was a native of the County and was interested in local history, so seemed the appropriate choice.
She was given a small corner in the basement of the old Carnegie Library to gather what materials she could find in the library and be prepared to accept other donations regarding local history which might be presented.
The “Greene County Corner” was officially opened on April 7, 1971. A desk, typewriter and one microfilm reader were provided along with some bookcases. An article appeared in the local papers stating that the corner had been established “for the convenience of people who want to look up old records, history and genealogies o this area as well as books by local authors”.
Microfilmed records included US Census reports, mostly for Greene County along with current and previous issues of local newspapers. On the shelves were City Directories, county histories, rosters of soldiers and county cemetery records. With the hope of enhancing the collection, residents were invited to provide family, church and organizational histories along with maps and other information related to the county,
Even frequent library patrons were challenged to find the corner. One of the librarians who was frustrated at being asked again and again how to get to the Greene County Corner printed a sign with an arrow “ to the Greene County Room.” From that time on the corner was known as the Greene County Room.
Louise Hutchison, better known to her friends as “Hutch” was employed at the library for a total of 36 years, 10 of which were spent organizing the first room dedicated to Greene County history. She began speaking to local clubs about the importance of collecting and preserving the history, and folks willingly donated family histories and other information.
The collection grew. New bookcases and file cabinets were purchased to hold the collection. A proclamation was made by the City of Xenia commemorating April 7, 1974 as the third anniversary of the Greene County Room.
Unfortunately there was little celebration for the event since the Xenia tornado of April 3, 1974 created serious damage to the old Carnegie Library building where all the books were stored. Most of the materials in the collection were saved. Those materials which had suffered water damage were freeze dried and eventually returned to the library.
A new Greene County District Library was planned and construction begun. The old Carnegie building continued to provide services for the community until the present building could be occupied. In 1978, the “new” Greene County Rom opened its doors. It was a large room with many bookshelves, several microfilm readers and tables for research was available. In just two years, additional space was necessary and so the size of the room grew. Soon volunteers began to help with the growing collection which would then be available during evening hours when library staff was not working.
Louise retired in 1980 and so Julie Overton took over the position as director. She had a degree in elementary education, but was well-qualified to assist genealogists with their searches.
In order to acquaint more patrons with the materials available in the library, Julie began writing a column for the Xenia Daily Gazette entitled “Library Lights” which included information about materials available not only in the Greene County Room, but In the other departments of the library as well. She related interesting historical events as well.
She enjoyed walking and instituted a lunch walk. She invited anyone who had a few minutes to spare to walk around town while she would share her research about some of the historic buildings.
It was during the time that the room began to take on additional materials relating to the county as well as information about and from surrounding states. She realized that patrons were interested in their heritage, which most often would have included areas in the Eastern part of the county which had been settled before Ohio was established. She began to expand the collection to include other states and eventually many foreign countries.
Julie’s health failed and so she retired, leaving the room in charge of Deanna K. Ulvestad, head archivist who became the third librarian charged keeping the local history.
Under her direction, the collection has continued to expand. Additional space for materials has been acquired; more microfilm readers and printers are available. Now patrons can search on library computers for their ancestors. The room is well staffed with knowledgeable persons who are well-acquainted with the collection and ready to help.
A complete obituary file, family histories, genealogies, maps, microfilmed newspapers, and census records are available at the touch of a finger. Thanks to those far-seeing individuals who began to gather historical documents of Greene County history, the collection is large and continues to grow.
Researches will be sure to find a myriad of interesting information in the Greene County Room.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and guest historical columnist.