Local History Collection sheds light on library’s past

Circulation desk at the Main Library, circa 1968, where Regiscope machines are used to check out materials. 

For many, December is a month of reflection: the cold weather can make us nostalgic, and the end of the year prompts us to look back at the year that has just passed, and perhaps look at old photo albums, too. For Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library, December means carefully sifting through old library photos and documents to piece together its Local History Collection. This collection consists of documents and photographs that go back nearly 100 years and cover library events, buildings and people.

Heights Libraries plans to establish a permanent location for the collection in 2014. For now, the physical ephemera of the collection are not available for public research, but hundreds of photos can be accessed online through the Cleveland Memory Project at www.clevelandmemory.org. Heights Libraries has partnered with this project, created by the Libraries at Cleveland State University, to contribute to the online database of historical photos, e-books, and even video and sound recordings. The library’s portion of the collection includes photos of Halloween parties in 1974, card catalogs, Memorial Day parades, a “Critter Show” in 1978, the 1920s bookmobile, first computers and library building demolitions.

Bill Rubin, adult services librarian, is now leading the project to digitize the Local History Collection, to make it accessible online. “What’s great about putting this information online is that crowdsourcing techniques can be used to hone information about these old photographs,” said Rubin. “If people can identify a favorite librarian, their Great Aunt Irma or themselves as small children, I would love to hear from them.” Rubin can be contacted at wrubin@heightslibrary.org.

The photos provide a vivid account of how the library has changed: the branches no longer have shelves of phonebooks from around the country, Santa Claus doesn’t visit the library in December and card catalogs are now extinct. But these photos also show what hasn’t changed: the Coventry Village Library building has remained true to its 1926 form, the commitment to diversity on the board and staff goes back further than many may think and storytime has always featured a crowd of children gathered at the knees of an animated librarian.

Follow Heights Libraries on Twitter @HeightsLibrary to see a new photo from the Local History Collection every week, and keep your eyes peeled for #ThrowbackThursday. To learn about the archiving process, visit www.heightslibrary.org for volunteer opportunities with the Cleveland Memory Project.

Sheryl Banks

Julia Murphy is the marketing assistant for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library.

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Volume 6, Issue 12, Posted 11:48 AM, 12.02.2013