Law library undergoing renovations

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times Law Librarian Juanita Henniger, left, reviews forms with Anthony Starkey, right, in the Washington County Law Library Thursday.

During city budget hearings this fall Marietta City Council questioned a line item within the court budgets which predicts a send of $90,000 to the county law library.

Recently, Law Librarian Juanita Henniger explained what that pays for.

“That goes for our books, which have to be updated as the statutes change, and for our membership to our research databases,” she explained, noting sets cost north of $20,000 for volumes of statutes that have to be consistently updated as laws change.

Located in the basement of the Washington County Courthouse at the corner of Putnam and Second streets, the library is open to the public four days a week, and both attorneys and those looking to represent themselves in the courts make regular visits.

“We have attorneys that come in to research, but there are many from the regular public who come in for forms to file for divorce or custody. They look up real estate options, wills, local laws,” continued Henniger.

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times The Washington County Law Library remains open Thursday, though renovations have removed formerly moving shelving from the center of the main room to make way for handicap accessibility.

Anthony Starkey, 29, of Marietta, dropped into the library Thursday to get information on forms available for standard visitation.

“I was sent down here from upstairs, they said I needed a copy of this form,” he told Henniger.

Henniger directed Starkey to the public computer closest to the library’s doors, educating him on the navigation of the legal aid and Ohio Supreme Court websites.

As the county seat, and location of the municipal court, Marietta pays for the majority of the library’s budget each year.

But those funds, as explained to council, come purely from fines, penalties and forfeited bail within the courts.

“We pay a share for the dog warden, but nothing to the law library,” noted Belpre City Auditor Leslie Pittenger. “But that makes sense because any time our citizens are in court up there instead of our mayor’s court we don’t see any of those fees come back to us either.”

Henniger said the way the library is funded is written out by Ohio statute, and the contributing fines and fees which fund the library are not entirely predictable.

“We get a set amount from the (Washington County) Clerk of Courts, $1,250 a year sometimes, but last year we received zero from them since that’s dependent on bail forfeitures,” she explained.

The library’s finances are overseen by a board of trustees, made up of Lowell Mayor Steven Weber and attorneys Tim Loughry, Lesley Khul, Cameron Fouss and Rhonda Mears.

“The commissioners don’t contribute to the library from their general fund, but they do provide the building and utilities,” added Henniger.

The library also provides meetings rooms for mediation, Henniger explained to Starkey.

“I think the last time I was in here it was a little different,” he mentioned.

“Yeah, a little it was like a dungeon,” she replied. “But we’re in the middle of a renovation so that there can be three rooms in the back and make this more open for wheelchair access. And there will be full shelves along the wall but then half shelves through here to let in that light from the windows.”

When he asked why three rooms, she explained that the separation of parties during negotiation and mediation is often needed.

“This is the first time the library will see any changes since we were first moved down here in 1983,” she explained. “They’re going to take one wall out here to make it more open, and then add the three rooms in the back.”

The renovation is estimated to cost at most $170,000 and is projected to be complete by the end of next year.

She said the funding for the renovation is covered by some of the fines revenue and the difference will be made up by donations. She said the fines also pay for her salary and benefits.

At a glance:

• The county law library is funded through fines, penalties and forfeited bail that comes out of the county and municipal court.

• It serves not only the local judiciary and elected officials but also is open to the public.

• Located in the basement of the Washington County Courthouse, the library provides access to both print and electronic legal materials and indexed copies may be searched both in person Monday-Thursday or through the free mobile app; LibraryWorld Search by selecting Washington County under Library Name.

Source: Times research.