Ohio Library Tour – Newark

Ohio has over 250 public library systems. My friend Lisa made a list of them, organized by county. Last weekend we launched our Ohio Library Tour, intending to tour as many of them as time and gas money permit. First up on our Ohio Library Tour was the Licking County Public Library in Newark, a community of 50,000 a short drive east of Columbus. My mother was born in Newark, but we chose the city primarily because it is so close to where we live and we only had a half day for our first library tour.

Why an Ohio Library Tour you may wonder. Well, everyone benefits from having a hobby. We decided our current one is visiting as many libraries as we can manage. I was raised by a librarian, Lisa now works in a library. We are fascinated with libraries, impressed with their great impact on communities, concerned about the recent attacks on them, and determined to personally thank library staff and check out the creative ways libraries adapt to modern life.

A Library with An Aquarium

Aquarium captivates young pre-readers

The expansion of the downtown Newark library in 1999 included renovating the entire basement level into a children and youth reading and game room, complete with an aquarium. I struggled to capture this photo without also photographing several exuberant children captivated by the fish swimming peacefully within it.

A nearby table was set up with Legos to keep young hands busy. Giant paper mache dragons lurked on top of two bookshelves. Children of all ages were busy exploring their options.

Leave it to the Ladies to Launch a Library

According to the history posted on the library’s website the library began in 1871 as the Ladies Circulating Library in a downtown house. It was moved to the basement of the Courthouse in 1880 and eventually closed.

Over a century of expansion







On March 16, 1908, the City Council officially established the Newark Public Library when several women from the Monday Talks Club urged them to do so. These women had previously opened the earlier Ladies Circulating Library.

The new public library opened in September of that year in a rent-free room in the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Building, later known as the Auditorium Theater. In 1920, the library moved to the Hilliard House at 105 West Church Street, behind the former Newark High School.

Books on the Move

In 1950 the library moved to a new building at 88 West Church Street. It stayed there until voters approved a 1997 bond levy to build the current Main Library at 101 West Main Street. When it opened in 2000, it became the largest library in the Licking County Library System.

The State Library approved changing its status to a County District Library in 2008, making it the Licking County Library. One branch is at Buckeye Lake, a popular fun central Ohio destination. The system is reintroducing its mobile library to go throughout Licking County, the third largest county in Ohio. They had to sustain that part of their program during the pandemic.

The Licking County system has two 24-hour Kiosks, one at the Central Ohio Technical College Pataskala Branch and another in a local park. On the way home we tried to find the Pataskala  (love that name) library. We live a few traffic lights from the town. We couldn’t find it and learned later the library is temporarily housed in the YMCA while the community builds a new facility.

Bah to Banned Books; Yay to Innovation

Numerous folks have commented that those who ban books never succeed for long and end up on the wrong side of history. Some of the titles book banning folks go after were required reading in my public education. Kudos to libraries for making them available now.

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Strum Away Your Stress

If you need a break from reading, how about checking out a ukulele for a month to strum away your stress? Or perhaps you’d like to try your hand at sewing something on a borrowed sewing machine. Ready for game night with the family but don’t have a board game? The library can lend you one. Perhaps you’re ready to see if you can turn your thumb green. Patrons can take up to 10 seed packets home on an honor system.

There’s more, much more, available at the Licking County Publish Library system, but this should be enough to convince you modern libraries have much to offer patrons of all ages and pretty much any interest.

A Pathway to Progress and Pleasure

Libraries offer a community free reading options through literally millions of titles available in physical libraries and now also digitally through downloadable eBooks and Audio titles. This archway greets visitors to the main Licking County Library in downtown Newark. Named “Learning Curve,” it was designed by Gary Lee Price and installed in 2006. The plaque next to it reads, “PLACED HERE AT THE ENTRANCE TO  KNOWLEDGE AND PLEASURE BY THE THOMAS J. EVANS FOUNDATION.”

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Share it with a friend or sign up for your own free subscription at HowWiseThen. I will not sell your information. For the fall of 2023, I’ll be focusing on libraries and more of the history behind the amazing Mayflower story.

Mary Brewster’s Love Life and Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures: available wherever books are sold. Bookshop.org/Mayflower; Mary Brewster
Amazon.com/Mary Brewster’s Love Life
Autographed copies are available on my website.


  1. Interesting history of that beautiful library a great asset for that community. Thanks for the article

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