Books? Yeah, we've got books. College and university libraries abound in Greater Cincinnati. And thanks to a rare reciprocal agreement, if you possess a library card from the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County or other selected area public library systems, these treasure troves of higher education are open to you. Some 45 libraries participate in what's called the Greater Cincinnati Library Consortium (GCLC), a cooperative that includes everything from Langsam Library at the University of Cincinnati to lesser-known institutions such as the Mary R. Schiff Library at the Cincinnati Art Museum/Cincinnati Art Academy. One library card serves all.
Some of the more notable stops on our special library tour (most will only let you read and look, with no borrowing privileges):
Archbishop Alter Library
College of Mount St. Joseph
5701 Delhi Road, Delhi Twp.
Chief Librarian: Paul Jenkins
The Archbishop Alter Library "is here to help not only our students, but all of the West Side of the city," says librarian Jenkins. There are 97,000 volumes and 650 periodicals. Also on hand are 200 videos and a substantial CD collection.
Rarities include antique Bibles and other religious books.
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College
3520 Central Pwky., Clifton
Chief Librarian: Kathryn O'Gorman
Named for the wife of a former Cincinnati mayor, Johnnie Mae Berry, the library includes 25,000 volumes and 300 periodicals. Collections librarians are most proud of include what is touted as the largest collection of cookbooks in the area (the college has a chef technology program). Other memorabilia and books are related to current classes offered at Cincinnati State.
Burnam Classics Library
University of Cincinnati, Clifton Heights
Chief Librarian: Jean S. Wellington
Boasting one of the largest classics collections in America, this library is named for a former member of UC's classics department, John Miller Burnam. There are some 165,000 volumes, 700 microfilms and 10,000 microfiche. Materials range from 19th-century German dissertations to modern Greek periodicals.
Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science Library
645 W. North Bend Road, Norwood
Chief Librarian: Randall Mueller
The Mortuary Science Library, opened in the 1880s to support the academic curriculum and research needs of the faculty, includes 2,500 books. Magazine subscriptions include The Director and American Cemetery. Database reports include "Morbidity and Mortality Update," published by the government. Rare volumes include funeral director textbooks dating back to the 1920s, as well as mortuary science works written by the director at the time, Charles Dhonau.
Cincinnati Stake Family History Center
5505 Bosworth Place, Norwood
Director: Alma Ryan
Opened in 1958 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Cincinnati Stake Family History Center is devoted to genealogical research (the word "stake" is comparable to "diocese"). Many family documents are collected by church members worldwide and would not likely be found in the public library, according to patron specialist Joyce Hottenstein. The center has computers for searching databases online, as well as 4,000 microfiche collections and 2,000 films on site. Major databases include the Ancestral File, a church-managed compilation of millions of names and their links to ancestors and descendants. The International Genealogical Index lists places and dates of birth for millions of people, as well as marriages, dating back to the 1500s. The Social Security Death Index lists millions who have died in the U.S. since 1962. Rarities include documents dating back to 972 A.D. There is access to the central Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Also, a Swiss specialist works on alternating Tuesdays, and an expert in German ancestry works Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
Gorno Memorial Music Library
University of Cincinnati, Clifton Heights
Chief Librarian: Robert Johnson
This library — devoted to all things relating to music composition as well as dance, electronic media and other topics — holds 26,000 volumes, 7,000 periodicals, 56,000 music scores, 40,000 LPs and 6,000 microfilms. There is a Music Listening Center. Named after one of the founding professors of the College-Conservatory of Music, Dr. Albino Gorno.
Historical Society Library
1301 Western Ave., Queensgate
Curator of Rare Books: Laura Chace
The Historical Society Library dates back to 1831 and includes 40,000 books, 50,000 pamphlets, 2,500 maps, 2,300 periodicals and 6 million feet of film, much of it relating to regional history. "The amount of work is enormous," says rare book curator Chace. Favorites here include an 1880 text by Virginia Jones documenting the birds and nests of Ohio in 68 colored plate illustrations. Other rarities include books bound in jeweled silver, a flat wooden map of the world and the Hauck Rare Book Collection. There are also extensive genealogical resources, including Cincinnati birth, baptism, marriage, death, cemetery interment and property ownership records spanning two centuries, as well as many local high school and college yearbooks.
Miami University, Oxford
Head Librarians: Judith A. Sessions, Balinda Barr
King Library boasts more than 1 million volumes, and subscriptions to magazines and newspapers are in the thousands. Rare items include a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio from 1623, the Third Folio (worth $700,000) and the other folios (total value at $21 million). Also in the collection: an illuminated Book of Hours (prayers) dating from 1450.
Martin Luther King Drive at Campus Drive
University of Cincinnati, Clifton Heights
Chief Librarian: David Kohl
Opened in 1978, Langsam is the general library at the University of Cincinnati. It's devoted to the social sciences, humanities, education and business. A number of governmental records are on file: Congressional Record, presidential papers, government maps and various consumer information. There's also a rare collection of volumes by Charles Dickens. The library is named for a former UC president, Walter C. Langsam. Special areas include the Elliston Poetry Room, devoted to specific topics. (UC also has sizable libraries at two branch campuses, Raymond Walters in Blue Ash and Clermont College in Batavia.)
Mary R. Schiff Library
Cincinnati Art Museum/Art Academy
953 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams
Chief Librarian: Mona Chapin
The Art Museum's library, established in 1881, includes 65,000 books, pamphlets and specialized research on specific artists as well as auction catalogs. Among the 150 magazine subscriptions here: Bead Journal, Ceramics Monthly and World of Embroidery. Other reference works include catalogs from the National Gallery of Art. The library is named after Mary Schiff, mother of CityBeat CEO Thomas R. Schiff.
McDonald Memorial Library
3800 Victory Parkway, Evanston
Director: Jo Anne Young
McDonald is a midsize library with the heart of a large library. There are three floors with more than 350,000 volumes and 1,500 periodical titles available to the public. Other materials include microfilm/media, back issues of periodicals, audio/video materials and other multimedia resources.
Southern Ohio College Library
1011 Glendale Milford Road, Woodlawn
Chief Librarian: N/A
The library, with more than 11,000 volumes and 90 periodicals, welcomes area residents. The Infotrac computer indexes over 900 professional and general interest periodicals in the form of citations, full-text articles or abstracts.
Southern State College Learning Resources Center
100 Hobart Drive, Hillsboro
Chief Librarian: Louis Mays
The library, with more than 39,000 volumes and 1,350 periodicals, welcomes area residents.
Thomas More College Library
333 Thomas More Pkwy., Crestview Hills
Chief Librarian: James McKellogg
You'll be shocked and surprised to learn that this library, with more than 131,000 volumes and 570 periodicals, boasts the ultimate collection of materials relating to Thomas More. There's also a terrific collection of Kentuckiana. The library welcomes area residents.
Union Institute Library
440 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills
Chief Librarian: Evelyn O'Connell
Opened in 1964, the Union Institute Library is actually two libraries: A physical library containing all 6,500 doctoral dissertations written by its graduates and current students, plus cassettes, videos and musical scores, and an impressive "virtual library" with a research engine that you may find worth an electronic bookmark. There's access to such diverse repositories as the Library of Congress catalogs, the THOMAS legislative database with full-text versions of current bills in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, and Smithsonian Institution databases.
W. Frank Steely Library
Northern Kentucky University
Nunn Drive, Highland Heights
This is a richly historic library where you can access a large variety of books and photographs on Kentucky and Appalachia. If you need to, you can purchase discs to save collected data. This library also offers a half-million documents from federal and Kentucky state governments.
Warren Correctional Institution Library
5787 State Route 63, Lebanon
513-932-3388, ext. 2263
Director: Dr. Richard Gent
We're not kidding you here. The Warren Correctional Institution Library is a full-fledged member of the GCLC, open to the public by appointment. With certain security restrictions, of course. The library, which primarily serves inmates, opened in 1989, four years after the prison broke ground. Included in the 5,000-volume collection is an extensive law library where inmates can research their cases. Visitors are required to pass through a metal detector.
Contributors: Linda Cress, Darby Schwab, Justin Kisekka, Donna Osborne and Randy Blaker.