The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
Country United States
Established March 14, 1853[1]
Location Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio

39°6′18″N 84°30′48″W / 39.10500°N 84.51333°W / 39.10500; -84.51333Coordinates: 39°6′18″N 84°30′48″W / 39.10500°N 84.51333°W / 39.10500; -84.51333

Branches 41
Size 9.5 million[2]
Legal deposit Selective federal depository[3]
Access and use
Circulation 15.6 million[2]
Population served 845,303
Members 241,552 active[2]
Other information
Budget US$48,307,419
Director Kimber L. Fender[2]
Website The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (PLCH) is a public library system in the United States. In addition to its main library location in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, PLCH operates 41 regional and branch locations throughout Hamilton County.

As of 2010, the PLCH's collection holds about nine million volumes, making it the 12th-largest library in the U.S.[4] In 2008, PLCH had an annual circulation of over fifteen million items.[2] The downtown location alone circulates over four million items annually, the most of any single library location in the country.[5] Hennen's American Public Library Ratings 2008 places PLCH tenth among libraries that serve populations of over 500,000.[6] PLCH's various locations had 5,661,940 visitors in 2008.[2]


Among PLCH's collections are books, audiobooks, downloadable digital audio and e-books, magazines, newspapers, CDs, videos, DVDs, CD-ROMs, sheet music, slides, microfilm, microfiche, and Braille. It offers free internet and free Wi-Fi, in addition to over 15,500 free programs each year for patrons. In 2005, its staff answered 1.7 million reference questions by phone, fax, e-mail, post, and in person. The Main Branch is a selective federal depository library.[3]

The library's website provides access to the library catalog, the KnowItNow24x7 online chat reference service, nearly 150 commercial research databases, bestseller lists, staff reading recommendations, and other information resources.

Special needs services provided by PLCH include "talking books" and Braille to the visually impaired, blind, and physically handicapped in 33 Ohio counties; its outreach services include books-by-mail, foreign language materials and bilingual programs, and passport application; its literacy services include GED classes and GED practice testing.

PLCH holds one of the largest genealogical collections in the United States. Online postings include Cincinnati and Norwood, Ohio city directories, Sanborn maps, and yearbooks as well as books relating to local history.


PLCH traces its roots to a subscription library that began in 1802. On March 14, 1853, it became the Cincinnati Public Library.[1] Since its founding, the library has occupied several locations, including its current location at Eighth Street and Vine Street.[7]

Cincinnati's public library was among the first to try providing service to patrons on Sunday. Starting in March 1871, the reading rooms at the main library were open from 8am to 10pm. Sunday library service was so popular that, according to library director William F. Poole, "often during the afternoon and evenings every seat has been occupied". As a result of Cincinnati's experiment, the public libraries in New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis adopted Sunday hours as well. Poole reported that "many of that class of young men who [had previously] strolled about the streets on Sunday, and spent the day in a less profitable manner, [began] habitually frequenting the rooms and spending a portion of the day in reading."[8]

For many years, the library used the Computerized Information Network for Cincinnati and Hamilton County (CINCH) as a system-wide library catalog which connected each branch through computer terminals.[9] Users at home accessed the database via TELNET. In 2005, the system was replaced with an integrated library system (ILS) purchased from library automation vendor Sirsi, now SirsiDynix.

Beginning in 2001, budget cuts from the State of Ohio drastically reduced funding for PLCH. In July 2002, the Board of Trustees voted to close branch locations in Deer Park, Elmwood Place, Greenhills and Mount Healthy. The board later backed off on the branch closing plan after a strong negative response from citizens in the affected neighborhoods.[10]

In 2005, the library received the American Library Association's John Cotton Dana Public Relations Award.

In 2005, a state budget plan that cut spending on libraries a further five percent was passed in the Ohio House of Representatives, after being proposed by Ohio governor Bob Taft. The budget prompted the library to distribute flyers and hold rallies in Downtown Cincinnati, calling on the state to repeal the proposed cuts.[11] The cuts resulted in a periodic hiring freeze, reductions in hours, branch and department closings, and the layoff of approximately forty librarians. Librarians responded by voting to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199 in 2006.[12]

After nine months of contentious negotiations over a union contract, the parties (SEIU and the library administration) resorted to a hearing in front of a third-party neutral negotiator, who drew up a labor contract. Librarians voted 45–1 to approve the contract. The library's Board of Trustees subsequently voted the contract down by a 7–0 vote, citing concerns over 'fair share' proposals built into the contract. After further negotiations between SEIU and attorneys for the library, the Board approved a union contract that did not include fair share. See the Agency shop article for clarification.

In 2007, the library began implementing a reorganization plan, known as ML/21 (Main Library for the 21st Century), that will lead to the creation of a Technology Center, Teen Center, a Popular Library, and a Local History and Genealogy Department. The plan also calls for the disbanding of subject departments in Art and Music, Literature and Languages, History and Genealogy, Rare Books and Special Collections, Science and Technology, Government and Business, Education and Religion, Fiction and Young Adults, and Films and Recordings. The latter two departments will comprise the new Popular Library. The History and Genealogy Department will be merged with Rare Books and Special Collections to create the Local History and Genealogy department. The other subject departments will comprise the Information and Reference department. Approximately 24 professional positions (those holding a Master of Library and Information Science) are slated for elimination through attrition and reassignment.[13][14]

In July 2007, the library joined with Kirtas Technologies, Inc. to digitize rare books and make them available via Virtual Library.


Fourteen individuals have served as Directors of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County:[1]

  • John D. Caldwell (1855–1857)
  • N. Peabody Poor (1857–1866)
  • Lewis Freeman (1866–1869)
  • William Frederick Poole (1869–1873)
  • Thomas Vickers (1874–1879)
  • Chester W. Merrill (1880–1886)
  • Albert W. Whelpley (1886–1900)
  • Nathaniel D.C. Hodges (1900–1924)
  • Chalmers Hadley (1924–1945)
  • Carl Vitz (1946–1955)
  • Ernest I. Miller (1955–1971)
  • James R. Hunt (1971–1991)
  • Robert D. Stonestreet (1991–1998)
  • Kimber L. Fender (1999–present)

List of branches

PLCH has 40 branch locations, in addition to the main library downtown:

Locations marked with asterisks were built as Carnegie libraries.[16]


External links

  • The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
  • PLCH online catalog
  • Kidspace – library website for children
  • Teenspace – library website for teenagers
  • Friends of the Public Library
  • Changes at Cincinnati's New Main
  • Rearranging the books Citybeat article on library reorganization plan
  • Ml/21 Library's webpage on library reorganization plan