What do Sherwood Anderson, Anthony Doerr, Wil Haygood, Toni Morrison, Louis Bromfield, Arthur Schlesinger, David Webber, and James Thurber all have in common? They are all Ohio authors. What about David McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwin? They’ve written on Ohio subjects (the Wright brothers, and William Howard Taft respectively). And all of their works can be found in the Ohioana Library, located just north of downtown Columbus, sharing a building with the State Library of Ohio and the Columbus campus of the Kent State University School of Library and Information Science.
Until my wife called my attention to an interview with current director of the Ohioana Library, David Weaver, I had not known such a thing exists. Yet the Ohioana has been around since 1929, founded by Martha Kinney Cooper, who at the time was Ohio’s first lady. It was established to gather a collection of books and other materials written by Ohioans or about Ohio. Currently there are over 45,000 books, 10,000 pieces of sheet music and 20,000 files of biographical materials on Ohio authors. Sheet music? One of the most famous pieces, at least for died-in-the scarlet and gray wool Buckeyes is Frank Crumit’s Buckeye Battle Cry, written in 1919. Materials do not circulate but are accessible for research use by the general public.
The Ohioana doesn’t simply preserve the works of Ohio writers, artists, and musicians. It also is dedicated to promoting these works. There are two principle means by which they do this. One is the Ohioana Quarterly, which highlights and reviews new books added to the library and features literary events throughout Ohio. All members receive a copy but back issues can be accessed in .pdf format online.
The other way the library promotes Ohio authors and artists are through the Ohioana Book Awards, annually recognizing outstanding literary accomplishments in poetry, juvenile and young adult literature, fiction, non-fiction, and works by non-Ohio authors on Ohio subjects.
Last of all, The Ohio Library sponsors the Ohioana Book Festival in the spring of each year. The next Festival is scheduled for April 23, 2016 at the Sheraton Columbus Hotel on Capitol Square. There are seminars on various literary subjects and genres throughout the day, chances to meet a number of Ohio authors, children’s activities, food trucks (!) and of course, books!
As a native Ohioan, I would argue that our state has a rich but often under-estimated cultural heritage. The mix of urban and rural communities, of peoples from so many different ethnic heritages, the vibrant support of the arts throughout the state, and cutting edge library systems in many communities fosters a rich cultural life, and I believe a vibrant cadre of writers and artists past and present. So it was a delight to learn about the great work the Ohioana Library is doing to preserve and promote our Ohio literary heritage.
I hope I can get down to meet the folks doing this work soon. Look for a follow-up on this one!