Eira Tansey

Visiting every Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

I am a huge fan of projects that last a year. This year I plan to visit every location of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (PLCH). There are 41 locations, including the main library downtown.

We are fantastically lucky to have such a wonderful library system. I think a large part of what led me to my career as an archivist was growing up in an area with an extensive library system. I loved hanging out at the library, and it’s pretty cool that now I get paid to work at a library!

Cincinnati really does rank among having one of the best library systems in the country. This has deep historical roots, and can be dated back to strong state support for county library systems, as well as the success of the early PLCH trustees in getting Andrew Carnegie to fund many of Cincinnati’s earliest library branches. Full disclosure: I wrote my undergraduate capstone (like a thesis) on Cincinnati’s Carnegie libraries, and recently published an article in Ohio Valley History on the topic. You can read it here if you have journal access, or view an open-access pre-print here.

I’m one of those rare Cincinnatians who has lived on both the west and east sides of the city, so I’ve always explored the branches near wherever I’ve lived. And as part of my research on Cincinnati’s Carnegies, I’ve visited all of the Carnegie-funded branches. But this still leaves many branches I’ve never set foot in.

2016 was a really difficult year for almost everyone I know, including myself. At the beginning of 2017, I’m spending a lot of time thinking about what a meaningful life looks like. For me, this includes one that is deeply connected to my local community, and full of intellectual growth and critical thinking. Obsessively following the 2016 election meant that I was often glued to “horror scrolling” (credit to my friend Avril for that term) through the news from the glow of my iPhone rather than spending time with a good book. I don’t think staying on top of the news is mutually exclusive with having a robust reading life (and indeed one of my favorite genres includes non-fiction written by journalists, like Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns) – but it’s clear that over the last year the balance was really out of whack for me.

So since I want to read more, and want to feel even more connected to my hometown, what better way than to visit every PLCH location over the course of 2017? I also plan to check out a book from every branch. While I’m not sure that means I’ll actually read 41 books this year, if I even double this year’s count I’ll be happy. I’ll post a couple pictures from every visit – a shot of the outside, and a picture of whatever book I check out from the library. I do enough writing for my actual job, so don’t expect lots of commentary… but if I learn a fun new fact or two from my visits, I’ll be sure to share them.

Categorised as: cincinnati libraries

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