Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
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Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
CountryUnited States
EstablishedMarch 14, 1853; 166 years ago (1853-03-14)[1]
LocationCincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio
Coordinates39°6?18?N 84°30?48?W / 39.10500°N 84.51333°W / 39.10500; -84.51333Coordinates: 39°6?18?N 84°30?48?W / 39.10500°N 84.51333°W / 39.10500; -84.51333
Size9.5 million[2]
Legal depositSelective federal depository[3]
Access and use
Circulation18.9 million[]
Population served845,303
Members600,000 active[2]
Other information
DirectorPaula Brehm-Heeger
Main Library
Anderson Branch
Avondale Branch
Hyde Park Branch
Loveland Branch
Northside Branch
Oakley Branch
Price Hill Branch

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (PLCH) is a public library system in the United States. In addition to its main library location in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, PLCH operates 41 regional and branch locations throughout Hamilton County.

As of 2012, the PLCH's collection holds about nine and a half million volumes, making it the 13th-largest library in the U.S.[4] In 2008, PLCH had an annual circulation of over fifteen million items.[2] The downtown location alone circulates over four million items annually, the most of any single library location in the country, and has an area of 542,527 square feet (50,402.4 m2).[5][6] PLCH's various locations had 5,661,940 visitors in 2008.[2]

In 2018 Library Journal gave the library their highest rating of five stars, scoring it second in the nation among libraries with expenditures over US$30 million.[7]


Among PLCH's collections are books, audiobooks, downloadable digital audio and e-books, magazines, newspapers, CDs, videos, DVDs, CD-ROMs, sheet music, slides, microfilm, microfiche, and Braille. It offers free internet and free Wi-Fi, in addition to over 15,500 free programs each year for patrons. In 2005, its staff answered 1.7 million reference questions by phone, fax, e-mail, post, and in person. The Main Branch is a selective federal depository library.[3]

The library's website provides access to the library catalog, nearly 150 commercial research databases, bestseller lists, staff reading recommendations, and other information resources.

Special needs services provided by PLCH include "talking books" and Braille to the visually impaired, blind, and physically handicapped in 33 Ohio counties; its outreach services include books-by-mail, foreign language materials and bilingual programs, and passport application; its literacy services include GED classes and GED practice testing.

PLCH holds one of the largest genealogical collections in the United States. Online postings include Cincinnati and Norwood, Ohio city directories, Sanborn maps, and yearbooks as well as books relating to local history.

In 2015, the Library opened its first MakerSpace at the Main Library downtown. Later that year, branch MakerSpaces also opened at the Reading and St. Bernard locations.

Special Collections

In addition to its large book collection, the Library also has many specialized collections, most of which are housed in the main library. Highlights of special book collections include:[8]

  • Adult New Reader/English as a Second Language Collections
  • Braille Books
  • Contemporary Artists' Books
  • Jean Alva Goldsmith Children's Literature Collection[9]
  • Jobs Information Center Collection
  • Science Fair Project Collection
  • Murray Seasongood Collection of Government, Law and Public Administration
  • Theological and Religious Collection


PLCH traces its roots to a subscription library that began in 1802. On March 14, 1853, it became the Cincinnati Public Library.[1] Since its founding, the library has occupied several locations, including its current location at Eighth Street and Vine Street.[10]

Cincinnati's public library was among the first to try providing service to patrons on Sunday. Starting in March 1871, the reading rooms at the main library were open from 8am to 10pm. Sunday library service was so popular that, according to library director William F. Poole, "often during the afternoon and evenings every seat has been occupied". As a result of Cincinnati's experiment, the public libraries in New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis adopted Sunday hours as well. Poole reported that "many of that class of young men who [had previously] strolled about the streets on Sunday, and spent the day in a less profitable manner, [began] habitually frequenting the rooms and spending a portion of the day in reading."[11]

For many years[when?], the library used the Computerized Information Network for Cincinnati and Hamilton County (CINCH) as a system-wide library catalog which connected each branch through computer terminals.[12] Users at home accessed the database via TELNET. In 2005, the system was replaced with an integrated library system (ILS) purchased from library automation vendor Sirsi, now SirsiDynix.

Beginning in 2001, budget cuts from the State of Ohio drastically reduced funding for PLCH. In July 2002, the Board of Trustees voted to close branch locations in Deer Park, Elmwood Place, Greenhills and Mount Healthy. The board later backed off on the branch closing plan after a strong negative response from citizens in the affected neighborhoods.[13]

In 2005, the library received the American Library Association's John Cotton Dana Public Relations Award.

In 2005, a state budget plan that cut spending on libraries a further five percent was passed in the Ohio House of Representatives, after being proposed by Ohio governor Bob Taft. The budget prompted the library to distribute flyers and hold rallies in Downtown Cincinnati, calling on the state to repeal the proposed cuts.[14] The cuts resulted in a periodic hiring freeze, reductions in hours, branch and department closings, and the layoff of approximately forty librarians. Librarians responded by voting to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199 in 2006.[15]

After nine months of contentious negotiations over a union contract, the parties (SEIU and the library administration) resorted to a hearing in front of a third-party neutral negotiator, who drew up a labor contract. Librarians voted 45-1 to approve the contract. The library's Board of Trustees subsequently voted the contract down by a 7-0 vote, citing concerns over 'fair share' proposals built into the contract. After further negotiations between SEIU and attorneys for the library, the Board approved a union contract that did not include fair share. See the Agency shop article for clarification.

In 2007, the library began implementing a reorganization plan, known as ML/21 (Main Library for the 21st Century), that will lead to the creation of a Technology Center, Teen Center, a Popular Library, and a Local History and Genealogy Department. The plan also calls for the disbanding of subject departments in Art and Music, Literature and Languages, History and Genealogy, Rare Books and Special Collections, Science and Technology, Government and Business, Education and Religion, Fiction and Young Adults, and Films and Recordings. The latter two departments will comprise the new Popular Library. The History and Genealogy Department will be merged with Rare Books and Special Collections to create the Local History and Genealogy department. The other subject departments will comprise the Information and Reference department. Approximately 24 professional positions (those holding a Master of Library and Information Science) are slated for elimination through attrition and reassignment.[16][17]

From July 2007 to mid 2008, the library joined with Kirtas Technologies, Inc. to digitize rare books and make them available via The library no longer participates in the program, but profits from sales of the digitized books were shared with the library. Other institutions involved in the plan included the University of Maine, Emory University in Atlanta, and the Toronto Public Library in Ontario.[18] Digitized material, including books, maps, yearbooks, and city directories, are available via the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County's Virtual Library.


Fifteen individuals have served as Directors of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County:[1]

  • John D. Caldwell (1855-1857)
  • N. Peabody Poor (1857-1866)
  • Lewis Freeman (1866-1869)
  • William Frederick Poole (1869-1873)
  • Thomas Vickers (1874-1879)
  • Chester W. Merrill (1880-1886)
  • Albert W. Whelpley (1886-1900)
  • Nathaniel D.C. Hodges (1900-1924)
  • Chalmers Hadley (1924-1945)
  • Carl Vitz (1946-1955)
  • Ernest I. Miller (1955-1971)
  • James R. Hunt (1971-1991)
  • Robert D. Stonestreet (1991-1998)
  • Kimber L. Fender (1999-2018)
  • Paula Brehm-Heeger (2018-present)[19]

List of branches

PLCH has 40 branch locations, in addition to the main library downtown:

Interior of the Avondale Branch
Interior of the Loveland Branch
Interior of the Northside Branch

Locations marked with asterisks were built as Carnegie libraries.[20]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Fleischman, John (November 2002). Free & Public: One Hundred and Fifty Years at the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, 1853-2003. Wilmington, Ohio: Orange Frazer Press. ISBN 1-882203-91-7.
  2. ^ a b c d "The Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County 2008 Report to the Community" (PDF). Cincinnati, Ohio: Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Retrieved 2009.
  3. ^ a b "Ohio". GPO Federal Library Directory. United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2008.
  4. ^ "The Nation's Largest Libraries: A Listing By Volumes Held". Retrieved 2017.
  5. ^ Brogan, Jeff (November 26, 2008). "Downtown Library Rated The Country's Busiest". WCPO-TV. E. W. Scripps Company. Retrieved 2008.
  6. ^ "About the Building". The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Retrieved 2015.
  7. ^ Lance, Keith Curry. "2018 Star Libraries By the Numbers | LJ Index 2018". Library Journal. Retrieved 2019.
  8. ^ Special Collections & Indexes - Book Collections. Accessed 2019-3-10.
  9. ^ Jean Alva Goldsmith Collection. Accessed 2019-3-10
  10. ^ Seavey, Charles (2001). "Cincinnati Public Library Archived January 15, 2002, at" Images From The 1876 Report. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri. Accessed July 8, 2005.
  11. ^ "Library opening on Sunday; results in Cincinnati". New York Times. July 1, 1872. p. 5.
  12. ^ Felix Winternitz & Sacha DeVroomen Bellman (2007). Insiders' Guide to Cincinnati. Globe Pequot. p. 370. Retrieved 2013.
  13. ^ Korte, Gregory (August 10, 2002). "Library Didn't See Squeeze Coming". The Cincinnati Enquirer. p. A1.
  14. ^ "Cincinnatians Speak Out against State Budget Cuts". American Libraries Online. American Library Association. April 22, 2005. Retrieved 2005.
  15. ^ "Librarians Vote in Favor of Forming Labor Union". The Cincinnati Enquirer. January 31, 2006. p. 2B.
  16. ^ "Board Approves Moving Forward on Main Library for the 21st century Plan" 2006-11-30 Accessed March 16, 2007.
  17. ^ Kurtzman, Lori (December 5, 2006). "Main Library Ready for New Chapter with Service Overhaul". The Cincinnati Enquirer. p. C3.
  18. ^ Doloff, Aimee (July 7, 2007). "UM Reaches Deal to Make Digital Copies of Rare Books". Bangor Daily News.
  19. ^ Cincinnati Public Library announces new director
  20. ^ Andry, Al (October 11, 1999). "New life for historic libraries". The Cincinnati Post. E. W. Scripps Company. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved 2007.
  21. ^ Peet, Lisa. "Midwestern Libraries Grapple with Polar Vortex". Library Journal. Retrieved 2019.

External links

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