The Cleveland Public Library is an urban research library that has taken a comprehensive approach to offering electronic information, as it has with library materials in more traditional physical formats. With the strongest public collection in the United States outside of New York, the library has developed electronic resources that mirror the breadth and depth of its significant collections. The library has also adopted a regional approach to library automation, and in this regard serves as a leader among Cleveland area public libraries.
The Cleveland Public Library first opened as a “Public School Library” for the Cleveland Board of Education in 1869. It was the first large public library to allow people to select their own books directly from its bookshelves.
For 56 years, the Library was in a series of temporary and rented spaces. In 1925, Main Library opened to the public in a new building designed by the Cleveland architectural firm of Walker and Weeks. Frank Walker and Harry Weeks designed the library building in the beaux-arts concept of order, symmetry and the groupings of functions. The Main Library is located in the Group Plan of Cleveland, where the public buildings are similar in scale, material and cornice height and designed in the classical style.
The five-story Main Library has an arcaded ground story and colossal colonnades for the middle stories. The interior has a vaulted lobby and a main reading room as a monumental public space. The decentralized planning consists of a series of rooms or department with shelving available to the user. Daylight floods the reading rooms because they are located on the periphery of the building with the stacks arranged around the central court. In 1997, the Library opened the ten-story contemporary Louis Strokes Wing to Main Library. It houses the administration offices, an auditorium and many departments.
Collections & Services
The Cleveland Public Library system serves the half million people of Cleveland through services provided at the main library and its 28 branches. As a regional support library, it also serves the greater metropolitan area of Cleveland and the state of Ohio. In 1995, the library collection included 9,132,744 items, the library circulated 5,210,449 items, and staff answered 1,924,763 reference questions.
As a pioneer in library automation, the Cleveland Public Library over 17 years has constructed a vast, but carefully selected array of electronic information resources, gathered seamlessly behind one online user interface, called The Cleveland Public Electronic Library. Through an alliance called CLEVNET, the library provides electronic information, technical support, and delivery services to 26 libraries throughout Northern Ohio. It aims to offer all people access to electronic resources whether or not they have a personal computer at home.
In terms of public libraries, CPL has one of the most extensive foreign language collections in the country. The Library offers local readers one of the best Chinese collections in the country with over 20,000 books and over 170 periodicals. The department's total circulation reached 227,000 items in 2007. Foreign Literature department is now the "home" location of the “Window of Shanghai Collection”.
(Photos provided by Cleveland Public Library.)