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Cleveland Public Library Plans Decade Of Capital Projects Beginning In 2020

The Cleveland Public Library celebrated its 150th year in 2019 — and 2020 will be equally eventful, the library's director said.

Perhaps the most visible changes, Director Felton Thomas told ideastream, will come as part of a 10-year project to rebuild or extensively renovate all 27 of its branches.

The first branches to be rebuilt will be Martin Luther King Jr. in University Circle and Hough on the city’s East Side, both expected to break ground in spring or summer 2020.

The Hough branch is almost certain to move to a new location next to League Park, the first home of the Cleveland Indians and now a city park, Thomas said, adding the new building will capitalize on that proximity.

"We have one of the largest collections of material on baseball," he said. "And so we're going to be able to move that collection into [Hough]."


Library patrons use computers inside the Hough branch. [Justin Glanville / ideastream]

He said the move is in keeping with the library's overall plan to give each new building an identity tied to the surrounding neighborhood.

In a similar vein, the new Martin Luther King Jr. branch will include a social justice center, with books and memorabilia commemorating local and national civil rights leaders. It will also become the new home of the Soul of Philanthropy Cleveland exhibit honoring black philanthropists, currently on view at the Cleveland History Center.

"We're always looking at what will speak to the community and provide some insight into what their community either was or wants to be," he said.

The Hough library is currently located at the eastern edge of the neighborhood, near University Circle. Ernest Hammock, a frequent patron, said he would support a move to League Park.

"I think it would be more convenient, because we already have a park there, and then we would have a library in that same area," Hammock said, during a break in perusing the library's DVD collection.


Ernest Hammock of Hough browses DVDs. [Justin Glanville / ideastream]

The library also plans to spread the word about the 2020 Census and the 2020 presidential election, hosting workshops and handing out information at events about how city residents can get involved and make sure they're counted.

"We're going to do what we do at libraries, which is make sure that we inform people about how they can be involved in the democratic process," Thomas said.

The library expects to complete its branch-rebuilding effort by 2029.

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