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Cleveland Public Library

Updated on July 5, 2013
Cleveland Public Library
Cleveland Public Library

With a mission to be the very best urban and suburban public library system in the nation, The Cleveland Public Library operates out of several interconnected structures in the heart of downtown Cleveland, plus 28 branches, with several additional specialized libraries scattered about Northeast Ohio.

The Library was founded in 1869, shortly after the close of the Civil War, at first occupying just a single rented room. Within its first several decades, it grew considerably, opening the first dedicated children’s room in 1898. Some years later, The Cleveland Public Library became one of the first urban libraries to open its shelves and stacks to citizens (up to that point, tradition had only library staffers retrieving books).

By the close of the 1800s, Clevelanders had recognized the need to create some semblance of order throughout the city’s downtown core. The 1903 Group Plan, developed by a commission of notable architects, proposed that a cluster of open pedestrian malls (or parks and plazas) be created, ringed by large, stately and uniformly massed civic structures. Initial buildings keyed to the Group Plan — all completed from 1910 through 1922 — included the Federal Courthouse, The Cuyahoga County Courthouse, Cleveland City Hall and Public Auditorium.

The Cleveland Public Library was to become yet another of the Group Plan’s key civic structures. A competition held in 1916 awarded the commission to the locally renowned architectural firm of Walker & Weeks. As the Library’s site lay immediately east of Federal Courthouse, and as the prevailing style of all the initial Group Plan buildings was Classic Revivalism, Walker & Weeks created a Beaux-Arts structure matched to the Federal Courthouse height, massing and scale.

Delayed by World War I, the Library went under construction in 1923 and opened in 1925. This five-story structure, with each floor of shelves and stacks twice a normal floor height, is as tall as some 10-story neighbors. Bracketed between this classic structure and an expansion wing to the east (a converted former newspaper building acquired in 1959) sat the Eastman Reading Garden, long one of the Library’s most favored amenities.

In 1997, a new adjacent structure, created by the architectural firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer to replace the demolished expansion wing, opened to the public. This newer 11-story building, named for U.S. Congressman Louis Stokes, consists of a drum-shaped glazed core embedded within — and breaking outward through — a cubic solid anchored by substantial stacked-stone corners.

The Cleveland Public Library collection numbers over 10 million items, and its primary downtown branch sees nearly a million visitors each year. Through affiliations with other library systems throughout northeast Ohio, the Library reaches out to a great many more Ohioans. Among the Libraries unique collections are its Public Administration Library (housed at Cleveland City Hall), 1.3 million photographs, a baseball collection, a theater collection, sizable rare book and children’s collections, and even a collection of chess and checkers sets.

A marker325 Superior Avenue NE, Cleveland, Ohio -
325 Superior Ave E, Cleveland, OH 44114, USA
get directions

Enjoy both the older main library and the newer Stokes Wing, as well as the sedate reading garden between.


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    • rickzimmerman profile image

      rickzimmerman 6 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Yes, E, the Cleveland Public Library System (and the inclusive Cuyahoga County Public Library System that surrounds it) is considered the best in the U.S. Lately, they've jumped into other media and new technologies. They are now the best places to borrow CDs, DVDs and go online.

    • Emmeaki profile image

      Emmeaki 6 years ago from Brooklyn, NY

      One of the few things I miss about Cleveland is the library! I read somewhere that it was one of the best libraries in the country. Even NYC libraries can't compare.

    • SaMcNutt profile image

      SaMcNutt 7 years ago from Englewood, CO

      Thank for the tip. Now I am itching to make that trip. Cheers!

    • rickzimmerman profile image

      rickzimmerman 7 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      SaMcNutt — On your eventual visit to Cleveland, you shouldn't miss the best sights: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Great Lakes Science Center, Playhouse Square, Tower City Center, Progressive Field, University Circle, etc. — You can check them all out in my hubs. Enjoy! — RickZ

    • SaMcNutt profile image

      SaMcNutt 7 years ago from Englewood, CO

      I hope to visit the Cleveland Library some day. Thanks for sharing this information. I have never been to Ohio, but when I do I will make a point to stop at this Library.