Library Timeline

1877 to 1940s | 1950s to 1960s | 1970s to 1980s | 1980s to 1990s1990s to 2000 | 2000 to 2010 | 2010 to 2020 | 2020 to 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 occur, the staff, administrators, support groups, and trustees remain dedicated to continuing a tradition of excellence and living up to the words of Miss Katherine Wilder, the library’s first Director, “For a little library, we do a lot!

1877 to 1947

Members of the newly formed North Ridge Literary Society contribute an annual fee to purchase 345 books for a public library.

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

Cuyahoga County Public Library begins to lend books from a room in Rocky River High School, giving area adults their first free library. Mrs. Josephine Pleasance, after training at Cleveland Public Library, is hired as 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 ensure 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.

Rocky River Public Library is dedicated, the original cornerstone placed on November 24. 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.

A “mortgage burning” ceremony is held, marking payment in full of the bonds used to build the Library.

1950s to 1960s

The Library successfully weathers the dark days of the 1930s, growing steadily as it meets the community’s information and reading needs. 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 board 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 1927 Macbeth gift of $25,000 was not entirely spent on land and landscaping. $1,341.59 was put into a “special fund” to be “utilized for general library betterment, 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 library’s south side in memory of her late husband, Leonard Schlather. The addition includes an auditorium, administrative offices, a staff kitchen, and an 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 has grown from two employees to four full-time and 14 part-time employees. The Library is feeling cramped again.

1970s to 1980s

Rocky River Public Library received a resolution from the Board of Trustees of the State Library of Ohio, determining it 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 purchasing the 800-piece John Brodbeck collection possible. Today the museum has gained a national reputation and has grown to over 1,000 pieces of Cowan pottery.

1980s to 1990s

Rocky River Public Library is recognized for embracing new technology with a $5,000 gift from the Richard Krebs Foundation for purchasing a collection of compact discs, making it 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 to adopt electronic techniques for information retrieval.

Adult Services staff begins a readers’ advisory service consisting of a bi-monthly newsletter, “Between the Covers.” Librarians also start a readers’ advisory tool using a card system to share book annotations and reviews.

1990s to 2000

Rocky River Public Library enters the computer age. The card catalog is removed. Library materials can now be found easily and quickly through the computer catalog. Word processors become available for the public. Cowan Pottery Museum hosts the first of what will become the Annual Cowan Pottery Symposium.

Internet access is added. The Cowan Pottery Museum Associates are established to offer support to the Museum and its activities and to promote the importance of Cowan Pottery.
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 John S. Weedon is hired as his replacement. Adult, teen and children’s programming increases dramatically in part due to funding by Friends of Rocky River Public Library. The Teen Room is renovated, and the Training Department offers adults a variety of free computer courses. Three librarians begin a cable television show of original book reviews known as “RRPL 1600: Booktalking Live!” As new material formats became available, DVDs, books on compact discs, and e-books are added to the collection.

2000 to 2010

Rocky River Public Library is ranked the 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 scores well each year in the HAPLR index. Circulation is up to 788,658, and the collection reaches 123,794 items.

Rocky River Public Library’s 75th anniversary is celebrated with an open house and many special events. 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 library staff. The card file of staff-written annotations has become a computer database. Now “The Reading Room,” the website is accessed an average of 60,000 times a month.

A reading garden is opened, 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.

The Library holds its first Book Festival. Fifty authors participate, including Connie Schultz, Michael Heaton, and Neil Zurcher.

Interior renovations begin, emphasizing an expanded Children’s Room, a new public computer training room, and the Grand Reading Room as a new book browsing area.

Construction began in the previous year is finished. In addition to those promised in the levy campaign, additional improvements 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 marks its 80th Anniversary and is joined by the Mayor of Rocky River for the festivities. Guests enjoy a slice of cake that is an exact replica of the original 1928 building.

Rocky River Public Library continues to embrace new technologies and formats for sharing information. Video game circulation is introduced, and downloadable music, videos, and MP3 audiobooks are added to the collection and increase access to materials 24/7.

A renovated Teen Room brings a larger area to read and study, complete with dedicated internet-accessible computers. The Library is awarded Nickelodeon’s 2008 Parents’ Picks Winner for Best Library for Teens in Northeastern Ohio.

A donation of almost $40,000 by the Women’s Committee is made to purchase contemporary Ohio artists’ work for display in the library.

Rocky River Public Library Foundation provides additional funding for Outreach Services to enhance this resource for homebound patrons and to purchase a new vehicle for Outreach deliveries.

Portions of the lower level are renovated to create a more efficient workspace for staff.

Cowan Pottery Museum hosts a celebration in honor of R. Guy Cowan’s 125th birthday.

The Library hosts a group of librarians from Sweden studying technology’s impact on American public libraries.

2010 to 2020

John Lonsak retires and is succeeded by Nicholas Cronin as Director.

New elements of technology are introduced, including the “text a librarian” service and Playaway preloaded audiobook players. Circulation reaches a high of 873,744, with 168,849 materials in the collection.

Cowan Pottery Museum marks its 20th Annual Cowan Pottery Symposium.

The Library begins implementing its new strategic plan (2011-2015). A mobile version of the website and a smartphone reference app are launched, along with Freegal, a new music-downloading service. Research resource databases continue to be added, including Universal Class and databases centered on career building.

Cowan Pottery Museum is featured on WVIZ/PBS’s Applause television program.

Rocky River Public Library is named a “STAR Library” in Library Journal’s 2011 “Index of Public Library Service” and will continue to receive this honor in the following years.

Cowan Pottery Museum begins its two-year celebration of the centennial of Cowan Pottery, founded in 1912-1913.

The Library marks its first performance for “On Stage in River,” a performing arts series, with contemporary ballet company, Verb Ballets. New strides in technology include Library ebooks available for Kindle, QR code technology utilized for tours of Cowan Pottery Museum and highlighting the Library’s fine art collection, and wireless printing.

Rocky River Public Library celebrates its 85th Anniversary and the 35th Anniversary of Cowan Pottery Museum. The celebration of the centennial of Cowan Pottery continues with a special open house event at the original Cowan location in Rocky River.

The Library launches its mobile app and joins Search Ohio, a consortium of libraries that allows us to expand access to materials in libraries all over the state.

Rocky River Public Library Foundation donates $48,000 for RFID (radio frequency identification) tagging to be completed to allow us to better and more efficiently track our inventory.

Hoopla streaming services and iPad borrowing are introduced.

The Programming and Digital Services department is established as a commitment to the Library’s new focus on strengthening community engagement.

Deputy Director Jamie L. Mason succeeds Nicholas Cronin as Director.


The Library becomes an Official Passport Acceptance Facility. It also begins offering mobile device charging stations and digital magazine borrowing. Cowan Pottery Museum receives a grant to digitize its archival resources into a database.

The Library’s publication, Inside View, wins the American Library Association’s PR Xchange award for best newsletter.

The building’s original 1928 clay tile roof is repaired and restored.

Rocky River Public Library serves as a first-time community partner for the Cleveland International Film Festival.

The Computer Center and Training Lab are renovated with a focus on ergonomics and comfortable workspaces for patrons.

While maintaining its administrative independence, the Library joins CLEVNET, a consortium of 44 libraries, expanding access to material by over 10 million items.

The Library chooses kind by selecting Wonder by R.J. Palacio as a city-wide Community Read. The mayor reads We’re All Wonders to families at the Community Read Celebration.

Due in part to a $20,000 donation from the Women’s Committee, the Lower Level restrooms are remodeled as the first phase in the Library’s plan to renovate all restrooms.

Rocky River Public Library celebrates its 90th anniversary and the 40th anniversary of Cowan Pottery Museum.

The Library has successfully partnered with eight other public libraries in Cuyahoga County. All nine libraries connect with the City Club of Cleveland and Playhouse Square to present “Our Community Reads: Evicted by Matthew Desmond.

Due in part to a donation from the Rocky River Public Library Foundation, the 1st and 2nd floor restrooms are remodeled, completing the Library’s plan to renovate all restrooms.

Under the direction of Visual Communications Manager Chanel Steiner, the Library launches a new website interface with updated branding, search functions, and new department sections.

2020 to Present


In response to the COVID pandemic, RRPL closes its doors on March 16.  Staff returned to the Library, and Curbside Services began on June 1st. The building was reopened to the public on August 3rd with anti-COVID protocols in place. Masks were required to enter the Library, meeting rooms were closed, and half the computers, and much of the furniture, were removed to maintain six feet of social distance.

The Cowan Pottery Museum observed the 100th anniversary of R. Guy Cowan opening his studio in Rocky River, OH, with events planned during the month of August and the launch of the Museum’s first virtual exhibitions.


After 67 years, the RRPL Women’s Committee, a Library support group, disbanded. They supported the Library through many different endeavors, including the Library’s Book Sale, which was turned over to the Rocky River Friends of the Library.

As the pandemic response continues, RRPL is able to resume services and adjust protocols to the latest public health information.


A new, permanent Storybook Walk was installed on the library’s front lawn. This space includes 20 weatherproof stations, which feature a new picture book every two weeks.

In June, RRPL hosts its first Pride Fest, a family-friendly celebration for all in the LGBTQ+ community, their families, friends, allies, and neighbors.

Board passed resolution 03-22 affirming the ALA Bill of Rights and censured the public harassment of staff, volunteers, and board members.

Jamie Mason steps down as Director, and Deputy Director Trent Ross is appointed Interim.


Evan Laisure is selected for the design of the Children’s Stairwell Mural.

In a partnership with all of the Greater Cleveland libraries joining together, RRPL joins a new program called Cuyahoga Reads. It was created to help young people in Greater Cleveland who have fallen behind in their literacy skills due the COVID-19 Pandemic.

With the maximum term reached for Board Member Audra Bednarski, a heartfelt thank you was given upon its completion while welcoming new Board Member Stacey Ganor.

Jessica Breslin is appointed as the new Director. Trent Ross returns to his role as Deputy Director.


“A Walk In The Park” by Evan Laisure, has its official reveal in the Children’s Stairwell.