The Cleveland Public Library was founded in 1869 and is located in Cleveland, Ohio. It operates the Main Library on Superior Avenue in downtown Cleveland, 28 branches throughout the city, a mobile library, a Public Administration Library in City Hall, and a library for the blind and physically handicapped.
Librarian William Howard Brett opened the library's first stand-alone children's room on February 22, 1898. Effie Louise Power was appointed Cleveland's first children's librarian.
In 1915, the Cleveland architectural firm of Walker and Weeks won a competition to design a new library building. Construction of their classical Renaissance design, delayed by the First World War, began in 1923 under Linda Anne Eastman. Eastman (1867–1963) was the first woman to head a major U.S. city library system and a pioneer in the modern library system. She opened bookshelves to patrons, replacing the New York Public Library system in which a librarian fetched the books.
The Main Library consists of two buildings. The older wing, completed on May 6, 1925 and renovated between 1997 to 1999, has five stories, each as high as two stories in most buildings. The renovations included the restoration of a large mural painted by Ora Coltman in 1934 for the Federal Arts Project. The work was done by the Intermuseum Conservation Association. The second building, named after former U.S. Congressman Louis Stokes, was dedicated in 1997. The two buildings are connected by underground corridor below the Eastman Reading Garden, which was designed by the Olin Partnership and includes sculptures by Maya Lin and Tom Otterness.
The Main Library's special collections include the Mears and Murdock baseball collections, the Cleveland Theater collection, the John G. White chess and checkers collection, a 130,000-volume children's collection, a 74,000-volume rare book collection, and collection of 1.3 million photographs.
In 2002, the Main Building had annual attendance of 804,692, annual circulation of 1,698,928 items, and a collection totaling 9,745,655 items. The Cleveland Public Library is a member of CLEVNET, a consortium of 28 public libraries throughout northern Ohio. In 1947, it became a depository library for the United Nations Library network, holding documents for the state of Ohio. There are only 400 UN depository libraries worldwide.
In 2003, The Cleveland Public Library and the Cuyahoga County Public Library created the Greater Access Library Card, allowing patrons of both to check out materials from either.
Its mission is "to be the best urban library system in the country by providing access to the worldwide information that people and organizations need in a timely, convenient, and equitable manner."