As it celebrates its sesquicentennial this year, the Cleveland Public Library is asking “what’s next?”
“This anniversary year is about the people of Cleveland just as much as it’s about the library that has served Greater Clevelanders for the last 150 years,” says Felton Thomas Jr., executive director and CEO of Cleveland Public Library. “This year, we will relive the best of the past, celebrate this tremendous milestone with our community and offer a look at how we are preparing the library for its future.”
From a citywide street festival to a puppetry exhibit, a flagship Writers and Readers author appearance, neighborhood events and more, the Cleveland Public Library’s 150th anniversary is a year of celebration and discovery. The events and programs honor the library’s anniversary and community members who made it possible.
“The Cleveland Public Library story is a story of a valued community asset now and into the future,” Thomas adds. “It is the story of people, the people of the People’s University, not the statistics. Statistics don’t define our organization, and they don’t shape our city.”
From its humble beginnings in a small 80-by-20-foot, third-floor space on Superior Avenue in 1869, the Cleveland Public Library has grown into a progressive, service-oriented library offering myriad services through its 27 branches and two downtown locations. Its services and programs today are among the most technologically advanced in the nation.
“How people access the library has changed because the way people access information has changed,” says Thomas. “And what people can access at the library continues to evolve with the needs and aspirations of every Greater Clevelander.”
In addition to books, library cardholders can access e-books, e-magazines, online classes, databases and music online, as well as attend live events, programs, expositions or special collections and classes. From computer classes to robotic camps to creative writing workshops, GED prep, tutoring, book clubs, story hours, comic making workshops, papermaking and book binding classes, knitting circles, forums and more, the Cleveland Public Library continues to evolve with the people it serves.
However, it does face some challenges to meet the needs and aspirations of an ever-changing and technologically advanced audience. The reality is that most of its work outside the scope of traditional library services is not funded by the state and local tax dollars received by the library.
“As we consider the next 150 years, the most important thing that we can do for the people of this community is to ensure the good work of the Cleveland Public Library continues,” says Thomas.
To do that, the Cleveland Public Library Foundation was formed as a legacy gift to the community. Though it has existed as a friends group since 1956, the new CPL Foundation “will allow us to do more for the people of this community in very important ways for years to come,” says Shenise Johnson Thomas, the head of development for the library.
The CPL Foundation supports the community through four primary investment areas:
• Ensuring that every child reads
• Connecting people to crucial resources
• Building a ready workforce
• Bridging the cultural divide
An investment made in the Cleveland Public Library through its foundation makes this work possible. Through its 150th anniversary year, the CPL Foundation is working to raise awareness and support the work of the library in the community. Whether through sponsorship, in-kind support, individual support or getting involved with the library — it all makes a difference. For more information, or to support the library through CPLF visit 150.cpl.org/cpl-foundation.
This year, experience a sampling of the good work the Cleveland Public Library does during its yearlong sesquicentennial celebration called CPL 150.
The library’s puppetry exhibit, The World of Puppets: From Stage to Screen, is open in Brett Hall and will run through the end of 2019. This exhibit invites the public to explore the globe through the ancient art of puppetry — and have fun in the process.
Summer Lit League, the library’s summer reading program, runs from June 3 through July 26 and will incorporate offerings related to the anniversary celebrations. On July 27, save the date for the biggest event of the summer: the CPL 150 Street Festival held downtown at the Main Library campus.
The streets in front of the two downtown buildings will be shut down for a festival offering family-friendly entertainment for all ages, including live music, virtual reality gaming, puppet shows, activities and crafts for children and more. Select neighborhood libraries will offer free trolley rides to and from the festival to increase access for those without transportation.
After the summer season wraps up, Cleveland Public Library will present a distinguished keynote author appearance through Writers and Readers, a series the library revived in 2018 to enthusiastic community response. Writers and Readers will be bigger and better than ever in 2019 in honor of the sesquicentennial year, and the special featured event will be free and open to all.
But this year is about more than singular events. Two ongoing projects in 2019 will deliver a lasting gift to the community. Through a partnership with the Cleveland Print Room, the library will present Cleveland 20/20: A Photographic Exploration of Cleveland. This community-based photography project enlists local photographers to document Cleveland “through the lens of its neighborhoods, its communities, its residents, its diversity and the many talents of its inhabitants.”
Cleveland 20/20 sets out to share the city’s story from the unique perspective of residents, give voice to a diverse range of local photographers, offer photography workshops, welcome a nationally renowned photographer-in-residence and foster community pride and cohesion.
Next, a partnership with Ideastream will present the audio stories of everyday people living in Cleveland across the full socioeconomic spectrum, with the intent to build social connections and inspire compassion. “Story stations” will be set up in branch libraries to gather patron stories, and select stories will be developed and broadcast on the radio and online. Clevelanders are invited to share their own stories.
The year of celebration draws to a close at the library’s annual Martin Luther King Jr., commemorative ceremony on Jan. 20, 2020. The library plans to recognize 150 individuals who make a difference in their own neighborhoods, families or libraries — a fitting way to end a year meant to honor its patrons.