ACRL 2019

Cleveland, Ohio

A land of libraries

Evan Meszaros is librarian, research services, email: evan.meszaros@case.edu, and Amanda Koziura is digital learning and scholarship librarian, email: amanda. koziura@case.edu, at Case Western Reserve University’s Kelvin Smith Library

Cleveland, like the rest of the state of Ohio, is a land rich with libraries. The greater metropolitan area of Cleveland alone is home to about a dozen academic libraries, two phenomenal public library systems, and numerous special libraries associated with our area’s many professional and cultural heritage institutions. This is in addition to our robust state-wide consortia, SearchOhio and OhioLINK, which respectively serve millions of public and academic patrons throughout the state. If you’ll be attending the ACRL 2019 Conference in Cleveland this spring, or even if you’re just passing through our city, you’ll want to check out what this land of libraries has to offer.

ACRL 2019 logo

Libraries in downtown Cleveland

Should you find yourself in downtown Cleveland with a couple hours to spare, we suggest visiting one of the following libraries, all located within two miles of the Huntington Convention Center.

  • Cleveland Public Library (https://cpl.org/your-library-is-a-5-star-library/). An award-winning library known also as “The People’s University,” the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2019.1 Of the 28 branches of the CPL system, you’ll find the Main Library branch located a mere two blocks from the convention center. Comprised of a 93-year old Italian Renaissance-style building connected to a more modern wing constructed only 20 years ago, the CPL Main Library was declared by Thrillist in 2016 to be one of the “Seven Wonders of Cleveland.”2 If you visit, make sure to check out their Special Collections, where you can view collections of miniature books (including ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets), collections on chess and checkers, Alice in Wonderland, and of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. Also check out the Cleveland Digital Public Library (https://cpl.org/clevdpl/), which helps patrons digitize and preserve their personal artifacts and collections. Free tours of CPL are available, but reservations should be made at least a month in advance for groups.3
  • Cleveland State University Libraries (https://library.csuohio.edu/). The Michael Schwartz Library (MSL) is the primary library for the Cleveland State University (CSU) campus, serving CSU faculty, staff, and more than 17,000 students, as well as members of the public who are conducting research. MSL’s collection of more than 900,000 books, journals, recordings, and other media is curated and made accessible by its team of 11 librarians and several additional library staff. Occupying the first five floors of the 20-floor Rhodes Tower in downtown Cleveland, MSL is best known for maintaining the Cleveland Memory Project, a freely searchable online collection of digital photos, texts, oral histories, videos, and other local history resources built by MSL in collaboration with community partners. Together with the library of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law (https://www.law.csuohio.edu/lawlibrary/), the CSU libraries are leaders in the state of Ohio in the development and promotion of open textbooks and other textbook affordability efforts.
  • Special Libraries in Downtown Cleveland. While the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is an obvious candidate for an excursion when in downtown Cleveland, a ten-minute car ride (going in the exact opposite direction) will take you to the Rock Hall’s Library & Archives (http://library.rockhall.com/), housed in the Center for Creative Arts on the Metropolitan Campus of the Cuyahoga Community College (AKA “Tri-C”). In order to visit, you’ll need to make an appointment at least 24 hours before you arrive, so plan to schedule your visit in advance.4 While on campus, you can also check out Tri-C Metro’s library (www.tri-c.edu/learning-commons/library), located on the third floor of the Student Services building.

    Among the few other special libraries located within blocks of the Huntington Convention Center are the Cleveland Law Library (https://clevelandlawlibrary.org/), a self-described “hybrid legal institution” that serves private members, judges, and other public officials, and the research library of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Die-hard library tourists should take note: the former is only open to the public one day a week, and visiting the latter requires making arrangements well in advance. Still, don’t let this deter you from checking out the lobby of the 95-year-old Federal Reserve building, designed in the same Italian Renaissance style as the neighboring Cleveland Public Library.

Academic libraries of greater Cleveland

Outside of the libraries serving CSU and Tri-C, you will find no fewer than 16 libraries serving a dozen parent institutions dedicated to higher education, research, and cultural heritage. A majority of these are clustered in University Circle, an area five miles to the east of downtown Cleveland and like few others in the entire country.

  • Case Western Reserve University Libraries. Sitting at the heart of University Circle lies Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), an independent, R1 university comprised of eight schools and with an emphasis on STEM education. Collectively, the CWRU libraries serve a patron base of nearly 12,000 graduate and undergraduate students and more than 3,500 faculty, as well as students and faculty from the Cleveland Institutes of Art and Music. Kelvin Smith Library (KSL) (http://library.case.edu/), the main library for the campus, primarily serves the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, and Weatherhead School of Management. KSL’s Special Collections and Archives features a wide array of printed books and manuscripts concerning the history of science and technology, the history of the book, and the fine arts. KSL also houses the Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship, which partners with students and faculty across campus to enhance their teaching and research efforts through incorporating new media and other digital scholarship technologies.
    Kelvin Smith Library at Case Western Reserve University.

    Kelvin Smith Library at Case Western Reserve University.

    The Cleveland Health Sciences Library (CHSL) (http://case.edu/chsl/library/index.html) primarily serves the CWRU Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, and Nursing. CHSL’s Allen Memorial Medical Library features several rare book collection and the Dittrick Medical History Center is known for its comprehensive collections on medical education, public health, and contraception, which can be viewed for free at the on-site Museum of Medical History.5 The CHSL is jointly owned by the Cleveland Medical Library Association, and its collections support medical researchers beyond CWRU. Thus, while researchers from the nearby University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic systems have access to their own institutions’ respective libraries—for example, the Cleveland Clinic’s Floyd D. Loop Alumni Library (http://portals.clevelandclinic.org/library/), which provides resources and services for eight regional hospitals—they may also access the resources of the CHSL.

    The Judge Ben C. Green Law Library (https://law.case.edu/our-school/library)has supported the curriculum, instructional needs, and scholarly research of the students, faculty, and staff of the CWRU School of Law for nearly 125 years. Just across the street in the CWRU Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, you’ll find the Lillian and Milford Harris Library (https://case.edu/socialwork/academics/harris-library)—the oldest social work library in the country, and one of a small handful of libraries that are administered by a school of Social Work.

  • Libraries of the Cleveland Institute of Art and Cleveland Institute of Music. The Cleveland Institute of Art’s Jessica R. Gund Memorial Library (https://www.cia.edu/library/) supports the art studio-intensive undergraduate program at this private art and design school, located only steps from the Museum of Contemporary Art. A highlight of the Gund Library’s collection is the nationally recognized Artists’ Books Collection, which contains more than 1,700 books from the 1960s to the present, including many of the most historically significant books of this genre. The collection also covers contemporary fine arts, photography and video, crafts, graphic and industrial design, illustration and animation, and digital arts and new media. The Cleveland Institute of Music’s Robinson Music Library (https://www.cim.edu/aboutcim/library), in conjunction with the Kulas Music Library—a satellite of CWRU’s Kelvin Smith Library—together support both institutions’ undergraduate and graduate students in music performance, education, and musicology, among other areas. The collection focuses on classical music of the 18th through the 21st centuries, and offers more than 41,000 volumes of scores and parts; 27,000 CDs, DVDs, and LPs; and numerous streaming audio and video services. Researchers and students of music also have the opportunity to avail themselves of the Archives of the Cleveland Orchestra has its home in the nearby Severance Hall, where one can explore a wealth of films, recordings, programs, photographs, and other items of note regarding what is considered to be one of the finest orchestras in the world.
  • Libraries of the University Circle Museums. While they’re certainly worth visiting in their own right, the museums of University Circle are also home to libraries that are critical to the mission of each institution. Take, for instance, the Ingalls Library and Museum Archives of the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) (www.clevelandart.org/visit/library), a nationally recognized art research library serving museum staff, students, and researchers worldwide, as well as the general public. It’s the third largest library of its kind in the nation, and houses important illuminated manuscripts, including Queen Isabella’s Book of Hours, as well as a complete set of works printed by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press. Designated the second best museum in the nation by Business Insider in 2016, CMA is always free to all visitors, though you’ll want to check the Ingalls’ hours before you visit it.6

    The Research Library of the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS) (https://www.wrhs.org/research/library/) is another asset to researchers and the public alike. It houses several collections that are national in scope, including a world-renowned collection of manuscripts, books, broadsides, artifacts, and spirit drawings regarding the Shakers, as well as the William P. Palmer Civil War collection, which is among the finest of its kind covering slavery, Abraham Lincoln, and the Civil War. Closer to home, the WRHS library also documents many facets of the history of Cleveland and Northeastern Ohio, including religion, politics, immigration, gender, ethnicity, transportation, business, labor, war, philanthropy, medicine, and leisure, among others.

    For those with research interests in nature and natural history, two University Circle libraries are available. The Harold Terry Clark Library, Rare Book Collection and Museum Archives of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) (https://www.wrhs.org/research/library/) features a permanent display of a first edition, double-elephant folio Birds of America by John James Audubon, which is part of a stellar ornithological collection, including works by John Gould and Daniel Giraud Elliot, and the personal sketchbook of Robert Havell, Audubon’s engraver. Additional resources for those interested in matters zoological are available at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Library (https://www.clevelandmetroparks.com/zoo/learn/educational-programs/educational-opportunities/zoo-library), though you’ll need to leave University Circle to visit it. Within a stone’s throw of the CMNH, the Cleveland Botanical Garden houses the Eleanor Squire Library (http://www.cbgarden.org/lets-learn/library.aspx) and its collection of beautiful and highly informative horticultural, botanical, and gardening books. Its sister library at the Holden Arboretum (www.holdenarb.org/education/library/), however, also requires some travel to visit.

  • Other Academic Libraries of Greater Cleveland. Just beyond the borders of Cleveland proper, you’ll find several additional academic libraries within a short drive, including John Carroll University’s Grasselli Library and Breen Learning Center (http://lib.jcu.edu/), Notre Dame College’s Clara Fritzsche Library (https://www.notredamecollege.edu/library), Ursuline College’s Ralph M. Besse Library (http://www.ursuline.edu/library/), and the libraries of Baldwin Wallace University (https://www.bw.edu/libraries/). If you’re willing to travel even farther, you can visit the libraries of the University of Akron, Kent State University—Ohio’s only MLIS-granting institution—and numerous smaller institutions of higher education.

    Cleveland’s libraries are a phenomenal asset to our city, but they’re not the only libraries in Ohio. In fact, Ohio is second only to New York in the number of Star Award-winning public libraries.7 We are fortunate that our state has a long history of supporting its many libraries and enhancing their individual value through cooperative borrowing and other support networks is an asset to all Ohioans.

Ohio’s library consortia

Individual Ohio academic and public libraries benefit immensely from their respective memberships in the OhioLINK and SearchOhio consortia. Of greater interest to academic librarians will be OhioLINK, a state-funded consortium consisting of 120 academic libraries from 92 colleges and universities throughout the state. For its members, OhioLINK provides access to a union catalog, more than 100 databases, and separate electronic journal, book, and thesis and dissertation platforms, among other resources. These services—and the consortium as a whole—have become increasingly important for meeting the information needs of member institutions over the years as their collections budgets continue to shrink.

Ohio is also home to OhioNET, the Ohio Library Council, four regional library systems, and many more organizations designed to support the libraries of Ohio. Whether funded by the government or member institutions, they provide continuing education and training for library staff, consulting for library administrators, group purchasing of resources, and support for emerging technologies.

Of course, no article about Ohio and libraries is complete without mentioning OCLC. Originally founded as the Ohio College Library Center in 1967, the nonprofit Online Computer Library Center, Inc., is still headquartered just outside Columbus in Dublin, Ohio, which itself is the namesake of the ubiquitous Dublin Core metadata schema. OCLC maintains both the world’s largest OPAC, WorldCat, as well as the Dewey Decimal Classification system.


With so much to offer both our communities and the profession, it’s no surprise that Ohio was chosen to host the 2016 IFLA World Library Congress, and that Cleveland will host both ACRL and Special Library Association conferences in 2019. So whether you visit in person or explore our libraries virtually, we hope that you’ll come to the same conclusion we have: Cleveland, like Ohio as a whole, is truly a land of libraries.


  1. David Reynolds, “Cleveland Public Library Is a 5-Star Library!” Cleveland Public Library, December 18, 2017, accessed December 5, 2018. https://cpl.org/your-library-is-a-5-star-library/.
  2. Billy Hallal, “The Seven Wonders of Cleveland,” Thrillist, May 18, 2016, accessed December 5, 2018, https://www.thrillist.com/lifestyle/cleveland/most-beautiful-architecture-design-in-cleveland-ohio#.
  3. David Reynolds, “Tour Cleveland Public Library,” Cleveland Public Library, accessed December 5, 2018, https://cpl.org/aboutthelibrary/tours/.
  4. “LibGuides: Library & Archives: Visit,” Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum | Library and Archives, December 5, 2018, accessed December 5, 2018, http://library.rockhall.com/home/visit.
  5. “Plan Your Visit,” Dittrick Medical History Center, accessed December 5, 2018, http://artsci.case.edu/dittrick/museum/visit-the-museum/.
  6. James Grebey, “The 25 Best Museums in America, RANKED,” Business Insider, August 31, 2016, accessed December 5, 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/the-best-museums-in-america-ranked-2016-8.
  7. Keith Curry Lance, “2018 Stars on the Map,” The Library Journal, October 30, 2018, accessed December 5, 2018, https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=ljx181101Stars2018OntheMap.
Copyright Evan Meszaros, Amanda Koziura

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