Renovation updates for Cleveland Public Library’s branches and StoryWalk introduced at Carnegie West Branch
by Bruce Checefsky
Plain Press, July 20220 Cleveland Public Library (CPL) ranked fourth among America’s Star Libraries, earning a prestigious Five-Star rating from the Library Journal, the oldest and most respected publication covering library service. The Library Journal index, published annually, compares U.S. libraries to their peers and ratings work on a scale of five, four, and three stars, based on per-capita usage data. With over 800,000 visitors a year, CPL circulates one of the most extensive collections in the country, close to ten million items.
CPL is funded primarily through the State of Ohio Public Library Fund and local voter-approved property tax levies, other funding comes from grants, fines and fees, and interest on investments. Cleveland voters approved Issue 60 in 2017, costing $35 per year for a $50,000 home, for more funding to rebuild and renovate all 27 branches.
A Cleveland Public Library Facilities Master Plan, released in 2019, identified Jefferson, Walz, Lorain Carnegie, Eastman, and Brooklyn branches in Group 1A, scheduled for renovation to begin in March 2020 and be completed by June 2022. The 10-year, $100 million plan has meeting rooms, after-hours community room access, a 24-hour vestibule with book lockers, a dedicated teen space, gaming areas, and other amenities. The Main Library downtown will get a $65 million renovation.
Karam Senior Living, a five-story, 51-unit senior living facility for residents making at or below 60% of the Area Median Income, will be combined with the new Walz branch at 7910 Detroit Avenue. The project, developed through a partnership between the Cleveland Public Library and Northwest Neighborhoods Community Development Organization, was supported by a $1M tax credit from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency in 2021. It marks the second location of the Cleveland Public Library to include apartments in its redevelopment. The planned 11-story Library Lofts building in the University Circle neighborhood features 207 market-rate apartments above a new, two-story Martin Luther King Jr Branch Library at 10555 Euclid Ave.
The new MLK Branch Library is part of the $39.3 million Phase 1A of the master plan.
With multiple branches closing simultaneously, including Jefferson, Walz, Lorain Carnegie, Eastman, and Brooklyn, access to library programs for neighborhood children this summer is limited and increases the distance to programs from a library that remains open.
Harriette Parks, Chief of Public Services, said the Cleveland Public Library is open and available to everyone, either in person or online. While temporary closures are inconvenient, they are necessary to meet community needs. The library system is prepared to meet the needs of children who have increased distance from an open library.
“Cleveland Public Library is taking our services to the people. Our goal is and has always been to meet people where they are. Patrons are provided with options, whether online, at a nearby branch or other opportunities to experience library services. Working closely with our community partners, Library staff is providing outreach to keep library programs active in neighborhoods affected by branch closures. Outreach activities include visits to schools and daycares, camps, community festivals, and more. There are three mobile libraries in Midtown, University Circle, and Edgewater Beach. Families can visit those locations for books, StoryTime, arts and crafts, and additional programming,” said Parks in an email to the Plain Press.
Newly renovated neighborhood branches will expand areas for children and have a dedicated teen space, more community rooms, improved technology and accessibility, and 24-hour access to materials with Grab and Go Book Lockers, according to her.
“These enhancements were feedback themes that emerged during meetings with library patrons and neighbors, surveys, focus groups, and open houses. The newly designed branches will reopen in late summer and fall 2022.”
Closed since April 2021, the Jefferson branch will reopen on August 29, 2022. The Lorain, West Park, and Woodland branches will reopen on October 10, 2022, while Brooklyn and Eastman will reopen on January 20, 2023. Reopening dates are subject to change.
The Carnegie West Branch celebrated its first StoryWalk featuring A Park Connects Us by picture book author and poet Sarah Nelson. The StoryWalk Project, created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library, promotes early literacy, physical activity, and family time together in nature.
Nelson explores themes in her books about nature, dramas of childhood, and inspiring, lesser-known moments in history. A Park Connects Us is an elegy to urban parks and the many ways they connect us to community and nature and invites readers to discover how shared green spaces bring us together. The StoryWalk project will continue with different authors and books every few months throughout the year.
Angela Guinther, Carnegie West Branch Manager, introduced the StoryWalk project to adults and children gathered near tables with free fresh pizza and ice cream. She said the selection of Nelson’s book, released in March 2022, was a joint effort. A Park Connects Us, displayed behind plexiglass mounted at a height tall enough for children to read, is installed near the sidewalk that circles the library building.
“This project was made possible by advocacy at City Hall, from Councilman McCormack and the Mayor’s Office of Capital Projects, with generous funding from the Thomas H. White Foundation,” she said, then added, “Teamwork makes dream work.”
Helen Zaluckyj, Carnegie West Branch Children’s Librarian, read selections from the book.
“A park invites us, spreads out its arms, and welcomes us in whoever we are. A park greets us with Good Day! Buongiorno! Namaste! ¿Cómo estás ! How ya doin’, man! And gives a grin, a hug, a nod, a wave – shouts, You want to play?”
“Whoever we are, however, we are, a park holds us and heals us, and loves us, and needs us,” Zaluckyj ended with applause.
“StoryWalk promotes childhood literacy, family time, and being outside,” said Guinther as the crowd dispersed. “Those things foster healthy families and community. As librarians, we always want people to read and write.”
Ward 3 Councilman McCormack praised Guinther for her work with the community and connecting people. Inclusive and public amenities make for strong and equitable communities, he said.