Cleveland Public Library Celebrates 150 Years of Service to the Cleveland Community

CLEVELAND, OH – In 2019, the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) is celebrating 150 years of being “The People’s University” for Cleveland-area residents. At his state-of-the-library address at the City Club of Cleveland today, Executive Director Felton Thomas, Jr. laid out plans for a year-long community celebration that will include events for individuals and families of all ages, a refocused strategic plan, an extension of the facilities master plan and the creation of a philanthropic foundation.

Signature Events & Community Involvement

Cleveland Public Library is pleased to invite the community to participate in the following events. Additional commemorative events and programs will be announced throughout the year.

  • The World of Puppets Exhibit, March 23 – December 31: The exhibit will feature Sesame Workshop puppets and give a world view of puppetry for all ages.
  • Street Festival, July 27: CPL will shut down the streets in front of the Main Library downtown for fun activities, including stories, activities and crafts for kids, puppet shows, live music and more.
  • Capstone Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Ceremony, January 20, 2020: CPL will honor 150 everyday Clevelanders who have made a difference in our community.

In addition to the events above, the Library is encouraging patrons, community members and staff to submit their favorite memories and personal stories involving the Library, as well as their hopes, ideas and vision for the future of Cleveland Public Library.

Stories, memories or photographs can be shared by visiting Submitted responses and/or photos may be published in the UpNext programming guide, on, or in other print or digital publications. Responses may be edited for length, clarity or style.

“We feel so fortunate to have been able to serve Clevelanders since 1869 and welcome the opportunity to continue to be even more of a resource going forward,” Thomas said. “We look forward to including the community in our 150th anniversary events and invite everyone to come and visit either the Main Library downtown or your closest branch.”

Refocused Strategic Plan

Cleveland Public Library is for all people and provides a nearly limitless opportunity for learning. The Library is dedicated to delivering literacy to the Greater Cleveland community. In this, the Library’s sesquicentennial anniversary, the Library is sharpening its vision for the future through its strategic plan. Specifically, the Library is focusing on three pillars of its strategy:

  1. Level Opportunity: The Library removes barriers to learning and connects people with resources to build readiness for opportunity.
  2. Foster Learning Experiences: CPL sparks curiosity in individuals and helps them build skills.
  3. Facilitate Discovery: CPL opens possibilities to pursue dreams and deepens understanding so that learning becomes a co-created experience.

“The community, our staff and our partners come together to activate the three pillars of our strategic plan to lead us into the future,” Thomas said. “Our dedicated staff works tirelessly to open minds and opportunities for everyone.”

Facilities Master Plan

As part of the tax levy that was passed in 2017, the Library committed to revitalizing its branches to best serve Cleveland communities well into the future. The Library partnered with Bialosky+Partners Architects on a multi-year capital project to ensure its neighborhood branch libraries could continue to provide safe, inclusive and sustainable environments.

Through a series of collaborative public meetings and focus groups held in partnership with Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC), the team identified how select branch libraries could be improved and updated to better serve their surrounding neighborhoods. By soliciting input from a diverse range of Library patrons, neighborhood residents and community stakeholders, the Library and CUDC developed a clearer vision for these branches.

The first phase of that process, which focused mainly on critical maintenance and facility improvements, is now complete. The second phase, which concentrates more on the experience and environment inside the branches, is now under way. This branch revitalization plan marks the third system-wide capital project in Cleveland Public Library’s 150-year history.

New Foundation

The Cleveland Public Library Foundation (formerly the Friends of the Cleveland Public Library) believes that the Cleveland Public Library strengthens the community by providing free and equal access to information and technology and that it is not only a world-class public research library and cultural institution, but that it is vital to maintaining thriving neighborhoods and enhancing the region’s quality of life. Therefore, the Library is offering donors the opportunity to participate in the success of the Library by encouraging philanthropic support for important programs, services, and collections, ensuring that it continually serves as the center of learning for a diverse and inclusive community.

The Cleveland Public Library Foundation’s vision is that the Greater Cleveland community will always have the finest free public system that is generously supported by the community, allowing the Cleveland Public Library to be the driving force behind a powerful culture of learning that will inspire Clevelanders from all walks of life to continually learn, share, and seek out new knowledge in ways that are beneficial to themselves, their community, and the world.

“While we are eternally grateful for the levy that was passed in 2017 and what that has enabled us to do with our branches, we know we can and want to do more for the community we serve,” said Shenise Johnson Thomas, chief of external relations and development “Our goal is to reach and impact as many people as we can, and this foundation will help us do that.”

About Cleveland Public Library

Founded in 1869, the Cleveland Public Library serves the residents of Cleveland through its network of 27 neighborhood branches, the Main Library downtown, Public Administration Library at City Hall, homebound delivery services, and mobile services to daycare and senior centers. From a collection of 10.5 million items, the Library lends over 5 million items a year to its 330,000 registered borrowers and to 43 other CLEVNET-member libraries in 12 counties across Northeast Ohio. Cleveland Public Library is home to the Ohio Center for the Book and the Ohio Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, serving all 88 counties in the state of Ohio. For more information, visit

In 2019, Cleveland Public Library will celebrate its 150th anniversary as The People’s University, the center of learning for a diverse and inclusive community. A year-long series of events are planned to mark Cleveland Public Library’s 150 years of service to the city of Cleveland. All CPL 150 events will be free and open to the public, so that all Clevelanders may participate regardless of personal circumstances.