Cleveland Public Library – The People’s Place

by | Jan 23, 2024 | Arts & Culture, EA Staff News, Public Spaces, Parks & Recreation

January, 2024 – Do you remember how much you loved the library as a kid? The smell of thousands of books, the quiet rooms, the big comfy chairs, the librarians who were the original Google search engines and could answer any question? We realized that magical feeling hasn’t gone away when Felton Thomas, Jr, Executive Director/CEO of Cleveland Public Library led the Executive Arrangements Team on a tour of the main branch downtown sharing how libraries have morphed since those days to be relevant to the communities they serve.

We host EA University four times/year spent learning about the unique people and places in Greater Cleveland/Akron so that we have engaging stories to share with the candidates and new hires we help woo or onboard to our city as they contemplate a relocation to our region.

Writing desk of Superman creators, both Clevelanders

Felton has been in love with libraries since he was a kid, and his enthusiasm is infectious. He landed his first job stocking shelves at a library in Las Vegas at the age of 13 and has never looked back. He has led our library system for 15 years and it has consistently been voted one of the top libraries in the nation! The state of Ohio is known for supporting libraries with tax dollars. He describes the downtown library as one of those “unknown destinations” that visitors to downtown Cleveland could spend an entire day and just off the beaten path.

As a cool bonus, we walked through The Archive exhibit special exhibit – open thru June 10 2024, don’t miss it! Hanging from wooden posts 18′ high, there are 500,000 dried flowers and botanicals created by artist Rebecca Louise Law. It’s immersive, so you can walk right thru the center, surrounded by beautiful things from nature. It’s heaven!

EA staff, with Felton Thomas, Jr. at The Archive dried floral exhibit

Fun facts about Cleveland Public Library we learned from Felton

  • 155 years old
  • Based on the Boston and New York City library systems
  • Main library branch on Superior Ave built in 1925; Louis Stokes Wing added in 1997
  • 3rd largest public research library in the country
One of the world’s tiniest books, Old King Cole
  • Tech Central Maker Space is free to anyone who lives in the region and has state of the art equipment including 3D printers and large scale scanners, machines that will etch on glass and silkscreen a T-shirt (bring your own or buy from them), converts DVD’s and CD’s to digital – or just sit at one of over 100 computers available. Anyone 14 yrs or older can be trained to use
Felton Thomas, Jr. shows off TechCentral machines – all free to use
  • Largest collection of chess materials in the country (books, chess boards…)
  • Eastman Reading Garden is a beautiful pocket parks in downtown with mature trees, public art and Maya Lin’s fountain adds to the zen feeling
  • 27 neighborhood branches and every single one has recently gone thru, or will be rehabbed or totally renovated (many are more than 100 yrs old)
  • The branch on W. 81st in the Detroit/Shoreway neighborhood will have senior living apartments above it when that renovation is complete
  • The MLK branch on E. 107 and Euclid in University Circle is being rebuilt and will have 2 floors of library and 9 floors above with market rate apartments; its the largest neighborhood branch at 30,000 SF and will open in September of 2024
The Terrestrial Globe light fixture in the lobby features a re-creation of a map by Leonardo da Vinci.
  • We are spoiled not every state funds their library system like our state taxes do
  • Of the top 6 libraries in the country, four of them are in Ohio and two (Cleveland Public Library and Cuyahoga County Library) are in Cleveland
  • The Special Collections on the 4th floor has rarer items, but you don’t need any credentials to request an item unlike many libraries
Computers replaced card catalogs but cool that they kept them!
Computers replaced card catalogs but they kept them!
  • Because Overdrive was started in CLeveland, we have one of the best E-Books availability of any library. Download Libby today!
  • The Photograph Collection has digitized just a fraction of its 1.4 million photos which concentrate on people, places and events in Cleveland and NE Ohio (collections have come from Cleveland Press, Plain Dealer, Cleveland News, even Cleveland City Hall) most from 1920’s – 1980’s
  • The library recently hired Tiffiny Graham-Charkosky as their Director of Arts & Culture – we are all eager for the future public tours that will showcase their collection of art at CPL!
  • The image we have of the stern librarian who shushes everyone is gone, this is a community living room
  • There are collections in 50 different languages, so helpful to recent immigrants of those who want to read something in their native tongue

Executive Arrangements colleagues are born explorers, live and breathe everything about Cleveland/Akron so that no matter what interest or hobby your your out-of-town recruit has, we know a person, place or event that would help them see how easy it would be to find their people and their happy places here. If your talent attraction and retention efforts could use a partner like this, call us: 216.231.9311.