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One of Downtown's Best Shops Is Inside the Middle of a Library

Every holiday season, I panic over where I'll find gifts for the people in my life. As someone who enjoys shopping local for as many things as I can before inevitably hitting Amazon to finish off the list (please, don't act like you don't line Bezos' golden pockets with your own dollars, too), it's heartening to find gift shops and boutiques with some variety. No two people are the same, and neither are their interests. A good Cincy shop that appeals to many interests and ages is...well...let's be honest, it's an Amazon of local retail.

So every holiday, after I've hyperventilated a hole in the bag over a seemingly never-ending list of people to buy for, I remember such a store exists. However, it's not in a spot you would generally associate with gift-giving. Generally speaking, we're used to borrowing and returning items instead of buying them outright at this location.

Yes, it's on Vine Street.
No, I'm not talking about Mica.
No, it's not in Over-the-Rhine.
Yes, I know Mica is good, but this is good, too.

The Library Friends' Shop, located in the middle of the Main Library downtown, is my annual list-solver. Used books and media, greeting cards, literary gifts, clothing, and a variety of other curio can all be purchased inside the shop. And no, it's not a new store; in fact, it's been in the library since 1983. Where've you been this whole time?


The shop does most of its business selling used books. Not a big surprise considering they're located in the largest library in the city, but the books don't actually come from the library. A huge warehouse in Hartwell with around 100,000 donated books steadily supplies the Library Friends' shop on a daily basis. And the books are cheap. Like, oftentimes single digit cheap. Like, if you have someone in your life who enjoys reading, you can get them a hefty plate of word burgers for a Jackson cheap.

But it's not all books. Artisan greeting cards designed by independent artists and small vendors around the globe are the shop's second biggest business. You won't find American Greetings or Hallmark stuff in the Library Friends' Shop, either, so the stock is entirely fresh when compared to the Targets and Krogers of the Tristate.

But I'm not buying greeting cards for Christmas (though others might). I'm checking out the shop's shelves of Charley Harper gifts and local souvenirs. Mugs emblazoned with Harper paintings, books on Cincy history, posters, coasters, shirts, and art (they even have prints of the famous 1848 Cincinnati Panorama daguerreotype).

Got a baby? Nice. Buy him or her a baby thing. The Shop has it.

Love puzzles? Congrats on not sleeping and Netflixing your free time away. The Shop has them.

Do your socks NOT have cheeky, literary in-jokes? Throw them away and buy funnier ones. The Shop has a selection to choose from.

Did your tote bag rip and dump all your fresh kiwis all over the parking lot? For Pete's sake, why'd you buy so many kiwis? Replace your weak, old bag with a decidedly cooler, berry-impervious one sold at the Shop.

I could go on. But it's not all about what the store carries that makes it good. It's what the shop does with its proceeds that really makes it easy to spend a paycheck there. The Friends of the Public Library funnels the shop's sales back into the Library so it can continue to provide programming for our community. Programming like speakers and storytellers, reading camps, and more for people of all ages. Every dollar you spend at the Shop gives a little bump to the Public Library.

And who wouldn't want to support that?

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The Library Friends' Shop is on the mezzanine level of the Main Library's south building located at 800 Vine Street (45202).