Rocky River Public Library










Reading Room


1600 Hampton Road
Rocky River, Ohio 44116

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       Home / Local History
Local History -- Timeline
Rocky River Public Library Historic Milestones:

1920s-1940s || 1950s-1960s || 1970s-1980s || 1990s-present

Over the years Rocky River Public Library has evolved from a quiet gathering place for acquiring knowledge to a vibrant learning center for all ages. No matter how many changes take place, the staff, administrators, support groups and trustees remain dedicated to continuing a tradition of excellence and living up to the words of Miss Wilder, the library’s founding head librarian, “For a little library we do a lot!”.

Members of the newly formed North Ridge Literary Society contribute an annual fee to purchase 345 books for a “public rental library.” The library provides “nothing but the cleanest and most wholesome works …, books that could be taken into the homes of the most fastidious and read with profit by the whole household.”

The library and its social fellowship are dissolved. The books put in storage for 22 years.

1920s - 1940s

In a second-floor room at Rocky River High School, Cuyahoga County Public Library begins to lend books, giving area adults their first free library. Mrs. Josephine Pleasance, after training at Cleveland Public Library, is the librarian. Within one year, circulation is at 1,823. One year later there are 912 registered borrowers.

The Rocky River Board of Education authorizes the election of a Board of Trustees for a public library to be known as Rocky River Public Library. The trustees select their officers: Mrs. Emily Macbeth, president, and Mr. Harry M. Jacobs, secretary. A special election is held to raise $60,000 to build a library. The bond issue passes 513 to 342. In addition, the board levies a local tax to assure proper maintenance of the library. At the high school, the public library room houses 4,590 books.

The Board of Trustees of Rocky River Public Library votes to spend $25,000, a gift from Thomas and Emily Macbeth, for land and landscaping for a new library. The board authorizes its officers to purchase from the board of education one acre at the corner of Riverview and Hampton Roads. Mr. G. B. Bohm resigns as a member of the library board and is hired as the building architect.

The library is dedicated. Its first librarian/director is Miss Katherine E. Wilder.

A magnificent rose garden is added to the library grounds. In 1952 the American Rose Society will award free roses to the garden, one of three to be so honored that year. Donations of benches and sculptures are added over the years, but in the 1960s the garden is removed due to a lack of helpers to maintain it.

[ Local History || Top of the Page ]

1950s - 1960s

The library successfully weathers the dark days of the Great Depression, growing steadily as it meets the community’s information and reading needs. By June, discussions begin to consider library expansion. Cuyahoga County Public Library seeks to name Rocky River Public Library its fourth regional branch.

The Rocky River Public Library Board of Trustees meets with representatives from the Cuyahoga County Public Library board. The Rocky River library boards decides “it must reject the proposition” to merge with Cuyahoga County Public Library after a “complete sampling of a cross-section of Rocky River residents” make their feelings known.

The $25,000 Macbeth gift is not entirely spent on land and landscaping. $1,341.59 is put into a “special fund” to be “utilized for general library betterments, including any additional landscaping or books or other uses as may be particularly specified by donors.” This is the beginning of the Rocky River Public Library Foundation, chartered in 1969.

Sophia Schlather donates $100,000 to construct a new wing on the south side of the library in memory of her late husband Leonard Schlather. The addition includes an auditorium, administrative offices, a staff kitchen, and additional floor area for books and magazines. The new wing is dedicated in June 1956.

After nearly 40 years of service, the library’s director, Miss Wilder, retires. Her successor is George W. Scherma. The collection has grown to 40,000 books with an annual circulation of 145,000. The staff had grown from two employees to four full-time and 14 part-time employees. The library is feeling cramped again.


1970s - 1980s


Rocky River Public Library receives a resolution from the Board of Trustees of the State Library of Ohio determining Rocky River Public Library to be an independent library “excluded from the boundaries of the Cuyahoga County Public Library.”

Ground is broken for an expansion project financed with a 1.02 mil, 20-year bond issue. The northern addition will double the library’s space and add a second floor Children’s Room.

The newly expanded and remodeled library is rededicated.

Rocky River Public Library’s Golden Jubilee is celebrated. The Cowan Pottery Museum is established thanks to a generous bequest from Maude W. Michael, which made possible the purchase of the 800-piece John Broadbent collection. Today the museum has gained a national reputation and has grown to more than 1,100 pieces of Cowan pottery.

Rocky River Public Library is recognized for its progressive thinking with a $5,000 gift from the Richard Krebs Foundation to purchase a collection of compact discs, making Rocky River Public Library the first in the state to loan compact discs.

George Scherma retires after 18 years as director. Under his leadership, the staff has grown to 30 full- and part-time employees. Circulation is 236,277 and the library owns 88,703 books and audiovisual materials. Michael G. Garrison is chosen as successor with the task of adopting electronic techniques for information retrieval.

The Adult Services staff begins a readers’ advisory service consisting of a bi-monthly newsletter, Between the Covers, and a card system of book annotations and reviews.

1990s - Present

Rocky River Public Library enters the computer age. The card catalog, which had served the staff and public for so many years, is removed. Library materials can now be found easily and quickly through the computer catalog. Word processors become available for the public. Internet access is added in 1996. By 1997 annual circulation is 625,196 and the collection numbers 122,345 items including new formats such as books-on-tape and CD-ROMs. Staff is at 75 full- and part-time employees.

After 13 years of service, Michael Garrison retires and the Board of Trustees names John S. Weedon as his replacement. During Mr. Weedon’s tenure, adult, teen and children’s programming increase dramatically. Funded in part by The Friends of Rocky River Public Library, everyone from toddlers to seniors enjoys a rich mix of educational and entertaining programs. The Teen Room is renovated, and the Training Department offers adults a variety of free computer courses that are filled to capacity. The library’s website offers access to the online catalog, premium databases, and information About Your Library’s wide range of services. As new material formats became available, DVDs, books on compact discs, e-books, and, in 2005, downloadable digital audiobooks, are added to the collection.

Rocky River Public Library is ranked seventh best library in the country in its population group by Hennen’s American Public Library Rating (HAPLR) index, scoring better than 99 percent of the 1,700 libraries in its category. Rocky River Public Library continues to score well each year in the HAPLR index.

Rocky River Public Library’s 75th anniversary is filled with special events that include an open house at which library mascot Roc E. Rover is introduced. Residents pass an operating levy and funding for expansive interior renovations.

Retired library executive, John A. Lonsak, joins Rocky River Public Library as director.

Adult Services celebrates the 20th anniversary of Between the Covers, possibly the longest-lived readers’ advisory tool produced by any library staff anywhere. The card file of staff-written annotations has become a computer database. “The Reading Room” is accessed an average of 60,000 times a month from the library’s website and other websites that link to it.

A reading garden is opened in April, made possible by donations from the estates of Lucille Shaw and Helen Schlick and the Rocky River Junior Women’s Club, Friends of the Library and Library Foundation.
Also in April, the library holds its first Book Festival at the Don Umerley Civic Center. Fifty authors take part, including Connie Schultz, Michael Heaton and Neil Zurcher.

Interior renovations, emphasizing an expanded Children’s Room, new public computer training room, and library “living room” for browsing new books begin in June.

Construction begun in the previous year is finished with items promised in the levy campaign completed along with many other enhancements. These include an expanded display space for the Cowan Pottery Museum, a large print area with easy access from the elevators, and a larger public computer center. The library is rededicated as a beautiful space befitting its history.


New technologies and formats for sharing information and stories come along seemingly every day and Rocky River Public Library is committed to serving patrons who embrace those new mediums. Downloadable music, videos and MP3 audiobooks are added to the collection and provide people access to materials 24/7.

The renovations brought young adults a larger area to read and study complete with dedicated internet accessible computers. With a new rotating collection of video games available for check out, group discussions of books like Twilight by Stephenie Meyer and an excellent collection of materials for teens it’s not surprising that the library is awarded Nickelodeon’s 2008 Parents’ Picks Winner for Best Library for Teens in Northeastern Ohio (ParentsConnect First Annual Parents’ Picks Awards).

A donation of almost $40,000 by the Women’s Committee is made to purchase Ohio artists’ work for display in the library. It is used to obtain diverse works from several different artists, including the glass installation in the lobby by Streets of Manhattan Studio entitled, “Channels.”

A party celebrating the library’s 80th anniversary brings in hundreds of people to hear Mayor Bobst speak, win prizes, enjoy a slice of cake that is an exact replica of the original 1928 building, and many other entertaining activities.

Rocky River Public Library Foundation provides funding for Outreach Services to enhance this excellent and well-used resource for the community.  Part of this funding is put towards the purchase of a new, more energy-efficient vehicle used for deliveries to Outreach patrons.

Renovations to create a more efficient workspace for staff are completed in the lower level.

In addition to hosting a film festival and the 19th annual Cowan Pottery Symposium, the Cowan Pottery Museum hosts a celebration in honor of R. Guy Cowan’s 125th birthday.