Downtown's Mercantile Library Announces Expansion, Will 'Nearly Double' in Size

The city's most magical luddite escape and unofficial Room of Requirement (for all you Harry Potter fans out there) sent an email to members today announcing the expansion.

Jul 29, 2021 at 12:30 pm
The Mercantile Library - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The Mercantile Library

Downtown's The Mercantile Library has some big news: They're getting bigger. 

The city's most magical luddite escape and unofficial Room of Requirement (for all you Harry Potter fans out there) sent an email to members today announcing the expansion. 

The library, located on the 11th floor of 414 Walnut St., has now acquired the building's 12th floor. 

"The opportunity arose with the upcoming sale of our building," wrote Mercantile Executive Director John O. Faherty in the email. "The new owners want to celebrate the Library and asked if we might be interested in a long-term lease of the 12th floor. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we said yes. Enthusiastically. This expansion, this doubling, will allow us to be more thoughtful and inclusive. We will hold more events, buy more books, bring in more voices. We will create a bigger community of people who love to learn." 

[READ: 12 Hours in The Mercantile Library: A Day Inside Cincinnati's Own Room of Requirement]

The Mercantile Library was founded as the Young Men’s Mercantile Library Association in April 1835, almost 20 years before the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. A group of 45 working-class merchants got together in a firehouse and decided to pool their funds so they could buy books and thus improve their knowledge, network and telegraph to the public that they were part of an esteemed organization that was reading instead of downstairs at a bar or brothel.

Today, the Mercantile is one of only a handful of membership libraries left in existence. And although it caters to members, anyone can enter and read or look around for free. You only need to pay an individual membership fee of $55 to check books out (nd there are more than 80,000 of them to choose from).

In addition to books, the library also conducts events and lectures. Over the years, it has hosted luminaries including Saul Bellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Bradbury, Tom Wolfe, Julia Child, Joyce Carol Oates, Salman Rushdie, John Updike, Elmore Leonard, even Herman Melville.

The library also offers yoga, reading groups/book clubs and musicians. 

[PHOTOS: A Look Inside The Mercantile Library]

Executive Director Faherty says they are still working out exactly what the expansion will entail, but it will be almost double the size of the current space and, he assures, "there will be more bathrooms."

He also quotes the library's original mission to “democratize knowledge,” writing, “We are banded together for self-improvement. Very limited, for the most part, have been our educational advantages, yet we believe in an enlightened age — in a land of liberty — the sun of knowledge, in its meridian splendor, is beaming down upon us.”  

For more information on The Mercantile Library, to join or to donate, visit

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