People are always amazed at the number of writers who come from Ohio,” says David Weaver, Executive Director of the The Ohioana Library Association, which is based in Columbus but which is dedicated to collecting, preserving and promoting the written work of Ohio’s writers, artists and musicians. “The list is amazing… Rita Dove, Toni Morrison, Paul Laurence Dunbar, James Thurber, Erma Bombeck… and that’s just getting started. Ohio writers not only contribute to our state’s legacy, but to our cultural legacy as a whole.”
The Ohioana Library Association has a unique legacy itself, David says. “It’s not the state library; it’s a separate nonprofit organization. I don’t know of any other library that is exactly like Ohioana with a geography-based mission of collecting and preserving works by authors from a particular state and works about that state. We also never get rid of anything we collect; ours is an archival, permanent collection, in essence documenting through that collection the contribution of Ohio authors to our greater culture.”
The Ohioana Library Association is in its 85th year; it was founded in 1929 by Ohio First Lady Martha Kinney Cooper.
David, himself an Ohio native, attended Ohio State University where he studied voice and opera. He spent much of his career in music but is also became an author himself after developing a fascination with Ohioan Ruby Elzy, an African American operatic soprano who was personally chosen by George Gershwin to create the role of Serena in the original production of “Porgy and Bess.” But she died at only 35 while undergoing a routine surgery.
Fascinated by her story, David wrote her autobiography, “Black Diva of the Thirties: The Life of Ruby Elzy,” which was published in 2004 by University Press of Mississippi.
“During a tea, which was the predecessor to our current annual book festival, I began chatting with then director Linda Hengst, who mentioned that the organization was interested in building its development and fundraising arm,” David says. “I had a lot of experience in that area, and I was immediately interested.”
David joined Ohioana ten years ago as Development Director; he innovated the now annual Book Fair held each May and open to the public. “Our first year, we had 10 authors and 500 attendees and have now grown to more than 100 authors and 3000 attendees.”
He became Executive Director last fall after Linda retired after 25 years in the role. “I’m only the sixth director in 85 years,” remarks David, “which I think says something about the passion of the people who work here.”
This year also marks the 73rd anniversary of the Ohioana Book Awards. First presented in 1942, the annual Ohioana Book Awards recognize and honor outstanding books published the previous year by authors who were born in Ohio or who have lived in Ohio for at least five years, the exception being a book about Ohio or an Ohioan.
Winners were just announced and will be honored on the evening of October 10 at the Ohio Statehouse and are:
- Fiction: “Looking for Me,” by Beth Hoffman.
- Nonfiction: “Super Boys,” by Brad Ricca
- Juvenile Literature: “Etched in Clay,” by Andrea Cheng
- Poetry: “Sky Ward,” by Kazim Ali
- About Ohio/Ohioan: “The Bully Pulpit,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Tickets for the event, which includes a reception with the award winners, will go on sale in September. For more event and ticket information, contact the Ohioana Library at (614) 466-3831 or at firstname.lastname@example.org For more information about the Ohioana Library, visit: www.ohioana.org