SHELBY — It might seem odd that a countywide library system doesn’t serve Richland County’s second largest city.

But Chris May, director of the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library, said it’s not that unusual.

“It’s actually more common than not for there to be multiple library systems in one county,” May said. “There’s only a handful (of counties in Ohio) that have one system.”

A Richland Source reader recently asked us why Shelby isn’t part of the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library (MRCPL) network, which has nine branches throughout the county.

May said he’s gotten that question “several times.” The answer is pretty simple: The MRCPL wasn’t always a county system. By the time it became one, Shelby’s library already had well-established community support.

“They already had their system going,” May said. “They do a great job at Marvin Memorial library. They wanted to keep that a separate entity.”

The main branch of today’s MRCPL network opened in 1899 and became a city library not long afterward. From 1924 to 1977, it was a school district library, meaning its taxing district was the same as Mansfield City Schools.

In 1977, the library abandoned the school district library designation and became the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library.

By that time, Marvin Memorial had been operating on its own for more than 75 years. 

Marvin Memorial Library opened in June 1897. Carrie Marvin was hired as the first librarian of the 300-book collection. Her uncle, Daniel Marvin, later purchased a house on West Whitney Avenue for $6,500 and presented it to the city.

Since then, the building has undergone several renovations. Additions were built in 1925, 1964 and 1990.

Fiscal officer Traci Montgomery said becoming part of the MRCPL network would mean changing the library’s governing board and taxing district — something that would require a lot of red tape.

Since community support for the library has remained strong, there hasn’t been a reason to make changes.

Like the MRCPL, Marvin Memorial started as a city library and later became a school district library and still operates as one today. Thus, residents of Shelby City Schools don’t vote on or pay the MRCPL’s operating levy and vice versa. 

Despite being separate entities, May said the MRCPL and Marvin Memorial have collaborated in the past. They’ve jointly hosted state legislators, whose work at the Statehouse includes budgeting library funds, and participated together in United Way’s Big Red Bookshelf campaign.

“We have a great relationship with Marvin Memorial Library,” May said. “That’s not something every community can boast.”

“There’s always been the mutual respect, mutual willingness to share ideas and collaborate.”

For more information about the history of Marvin Memorial Library, click here. For more information about the history of the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library, click here.

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