Tri-Village News

Library turns 90

Retired staffer shares history behind the books

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CHRIS PARKER/THISWEEKNEWS
The musical group Fields and Planes performed Thursday evening, March 27, at the Grandview Heights Public Library. The event was part of the Music in the Atrium concert series.

The Grandview Heights Public Library is marking its 90th birthday in 2014.

"We'll be celebrating all through the year," said Canaan Faulkner, the library's public relations manager/coordinator of adult programs and web content. "It's a really special year for us."

The celebration begins Tuesday, April 8, with "Celebrating 90 Years," a program tracing the library's history. Jeri Diehl Cusack, a retired library staff member and Grandview Heights/Marble Cliff Historical Society life member, will be the presenter. The program will start at 7 p.m.

"It's been so fascinating researching the history of the library," Cusack said. "I think a lot of people will be surprised at some of the things I've discovered. We are all familiar with the library and its current operations, but most people, including the staff, aren't aware of how the library grew and evolved over the years."

The library's first home was a second-floor classroom in what was then the recently built Grandview High School, she said.

"The community was fortunate that the state librarian (H.S. Hirshberg) lived in Grandview," Cusack said. "He was the one who brought a plan to build a community public library to the school board."

One of the most surprising pieces of library history is the difficulty in gaining voter approval of a bond issue to fund construction of a permanent building on donated land at the southeast corner of West First and Ashland avenues, she said.

"The donor was George Cambridge Urlin, one of the founders of Grandview," Cusack said. "He was an unnamed donor. Although I'm sure some people figured out who it was, it wasn't something the library advertised."

Two attempts to pass the bond issue failed. Although a majority of voters voted in favor on the third effort in November 1929, the ballot measure fell six votes shy of the 55 percent threshold needed for passage, she said.

"When you look at the date, November 1929, it was just after the stock market crash that led to the Depression," Cusack said. "That may have been a factor."

It wasn't until 1935, with funding coming from the Works Progress Administration, that construction of the new building finally began, she said.

Cusack said she also will provide information about Josephine Swinehart, the library's longest-serving director with a tenure from 1928-1960, and about the contentious break that ended the merged operation of the Grandview location and an Upper Arlington branch.

To mark the birthday celebration, library staff member Sylvia Thomas has created a logo and designed a banner for display, Faulkner said.

"Library staff members are wearing the logo on our badges and we'll be putting up banners around town," he said.

The first Music on the Lawn concert of the season, scheduled June 3, will be a celebration of the birthday, complete with cake.

"Arnett Howard will be the featured performer, and that's appropriate when you consider he's been here for all our Music on the Lawn series," Faulkner said.

"It's incredible to think about how the library has grown from a classroom in the high school to the building we all know at the corner of First and Ashland," Cusack said.

"Just think of technology alone. When I first started working at the library in 1984, we had a manual typewriter. We didn't even have a self-correcting typewriter.

"Now there are computers at every work desk, all the computers library patrons can use and the consortium the library leads that will now include just about every central Ohio library," she said. "It's an amazing story of progress over the last 90 years."

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