Founded in 1835, The Mercantile Library is a diamond in the crown of the Queen City. It’s a membership library that welcomes anyone who wants to join. They routinely host packed author readings, poetry and book discussions, and all sorts of interesting literary and community events. You can use it as a workspace during its open hours, and their collection of books is hard to beat, whether it's their print collection or their vast and ever-expanding e-library.
They celebrated their 185th anniversary on April 18th of this year during the statewide lockdown. Even though the Library is closed, they have found some innovative ways to remain at the center of Cincinnati’s literary scene, which if you know a little about their history, isn’t that surprising.
“The Library had the first telegraph machine in Cincinnati,” explains Amy B. Hunter, Mercantile’s Literary Programs and Marketing Manager. “In 1845, on the verge of our 10th Anniversary, the building we occupied burned to the ground. We reopened in temporary quarters within a few weeks. So adapting to new media and unforeseen disasters is in our DNA.”
Amy emphasizes how important it is to remain connected with members of the library. “Now, like everyone else, we've been working to engage with our members in all sorts of ways—without adding to the noise. We've got posts that people are looking forward to watching, we've moved book discussions online, we have live conversations on Facebook & Instagram. We have increased our e-book catalog. We've always been committed to maintaining personal connections with our members and anyone else who likes the Library. It is just in another space, and we hope it's temporary.”
The Library has gotten even more active on its social media pages; on Facebook, the Library’s Director, John Faherty, is posting a daily “Poem for Shut-ins,” which is a famous/interesting poem often read by a famous/interesting person. Every week they send an e-mail newsletter called “The Virtual Mercantile” with updates on all of the online programs you can take part in, including a plethora of online book discussions led by Mercantile staff and the new group, Mindful Poetry Moments—the Library’s collaboration with The On Being Project for National Poetry Month (April). Every Wednesday at 3 PM, a Zoom (group video chat) call is held where Stacy Sims of The Well and Troy Bronsink from The Hive: A Center for Contemplation, Art, and Action are joined by representatives of The On Being Project, The Mercantile Library, WordPlay Cincy, and others for contemplation and discussion of the project’s poetry selections.
The Library’s Collector, Cedric Rose, is adding new titles to their e-library on a regular basis, and he is also spearheading a project to transcribe and index the Library’s Visitor Register, from 1872 to 1918, which was recently digitized by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. It is a fascinating document, and Rose hopes to uncover the stories and history behind it.
We can’t wait until this beautiful downtown space is reopened. In the meantime, visit their website and check out the gallery above for precisely what we mean by “beautiful.”
- - -
For more information on The Mercantile Library, visit their site here.