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Cincinnati Library Ready To Open A New Chapter

The Vine Street entrance of the Main Library has big changes coming under the system's master plan.
The Vine Street entrance of the Main Library has big changes coming under the system's master plan.

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is making changes. The Walnut Hills and Norwood branches will be expanded, the Mount Healthy branch will move, and the Main Library could get a parking garage. These plans and possibilities are included in the next two parts of the facility master plan, released this week. Voters in 2018 approved a library levy that was expected to generate about $19 million a year for repairs and rehabilitation of library facilities.

Director Paula Brehm-Heeger says since that time, the library has been researching and planning "a roadmap for the next 10 years, mostly focused on facility improvement, but also some infrastructure improvements around things like technology."

Brehm-Heeger adds, "We're using what we currently have - building on success - but also taking a look at some facilities that really need improvement and really have some opportunities to do, not just a new roof or keep it going, but do something fantastic," she says. "So a building like Walnut Hills - which is more than 100 years old and has never been renovated - we don't want to just patch it up. we're taking a look at what we can do so that hypothetically, in another 100 years, we'll be able to say that was a great choice and it really served the community well for decades."

While the overall plan is to create a "next generation library" system, there is consideration for the past and for community desires. Brehm-Heeger says library staff has talked with community councils and customers of the different branches to see what was needed and wanted.

"Nothing can be frozen in amber and the service provided 114 years ago from any public building is radically different than what is needed today," she says. "Not everything can be preserved exactly as it is. Our mission is to provide excellent library service."

The Walnut Hills branch is slated for expansion. The Main Library will see a redesigned Vine Street entrance. Deer Park's branch could relocate within the Dillonvale Mall. The Price Hill branch, which has been closed since 2018, has been undergoing renovations and should reopen by the end of this year.

"Most of our branches, they're used in most cases six or seven days a week, almost every day of the year, and 43 years on average. It's really exciting to think about being able to give folks something new and fresh and improve their experience at the library," Brehm-Heeger says.

She says the 10-year plan does allow for adjustments, including if revenues from the levy drop due to an economic downturn, or state funding is reduced.

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