New librarian preserves and shares historic materials

Local history librarian Amia Wheatley.

In December, Amia Wheatley was promoted from adult services associate to full-time local history librarian for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System. Since then, she has hit the ground running, digitizing historic library documents.

“We have a local history task force and, in the short term, we’re focusing on managing the library’s history materials to celebrate the library’s centennial,” said Wheatley. “Once this is taken care of, we hope to expand to include all local history materials.”

So far, Wheatley has started a digital archive using Ohio Memory, an online archive created by the Ohio Historical Society. It will include photos, library annual reports, newspaper clippings, yearbooks, architectural drawings, oral histories, transcripts and more. The first batch of documents came from CH-UH school district annual reports, because the first libraries were housed in city schools.

“I found out a lot of interesting things when I was going through the scans,” said Wheatley. “The library offered 146 magazines to its customers in 1946. In the annual report for 1929–30, the library installed a telephone switchboard. During the 1923–24 school year, the library moved its main branch to 1916 Lee Road with none of its books cataloged (5,513 books total), and by the end of the year all of them were.”

Wheatley has also created an interactive library history timeline on the library’s website,, that starts with the 1916 appointment of a library board and ends with a video compilation of library photos taken in 2015.

The work goes hand in hand with the library’s centennial celebration (kicking off with an all-ages birthday celebration at Coventry Village Library on May 1), but it’s been on Heights Libraries Director Nancy Levin’s radar for quite a while.

“Right now we have historic materials in all four branches, just waiting in boxes and folders. In fact, some of them are here on the shelves of my office,” said Levin. “The end goal is to make everything easily accessible and navigable for all library users, and also to curate the content so that we can easily share our story.”

Wheatley will inventory and archive the physical items, and scan and upload them to Ohio Memory as well. There are plans for a local history section at the Lee Road Library, and Wheatley hopes eventually to be able to invite the public to contribute to the digital collection.

“Public libraries have a mission to not only offer the newest materials, but to preserve knowledge and information for future generations,” said Wheatley. “Handling these items with care is of utmost importance because we can't just order another one—it may be the only copy we have.”

Julia Murphy

Julia Murphy is the marketing and volunteer coordinator for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.

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Volume 9, Issue 4, Posted 1:31 PM, 03.28.2016