Residents of the Hough neighborhood celebrated the opening of the community’s new library on Saturday. Renowned poet, activist, and educator Nikki Giovanni was the featured guest during the festivities.
Giovanni regaled the audience with tales of her time studying at Fisk University and her friendships with singer Aretha Franklin, civil rights leader Rosa Parks, Rep. John Lewis, and poet Maya Angelou—but she also talked about the importance of community libraries.
Growing up in Knoxville and Cincinnati, Giovanni would spend hours at her local library. “They are not just places that house books,” she said. “They give a home.”
City Council member Stephanie Howse, who represents the Hough neighborhood, agrees.
“Libraries are the ultimate community space. It’s a place where you can come and find a little peace. There’s open and accessible internet for job seekers and those who need benefits assistance or help with their homework,” Howse said.
“It’s more like a community living room now,” said CPL Chief Operating Officer John Lang.
The new Hough library is located at 6530 Lexington Ave. and is the second of CPL’s 27 branches to be renovated or rebuilt. The Jefferson branch opened last month after an expansion, and the new West Park branch will open on Jan. 7, 2023. Renovations are being paid for by funds from a levy passed in 2017.
“Cleveland has a five-star library system,” Lang said. “We learned from our visitors that we have five-star collections and a five-star staff. But our buildings were no longer five-star.”
Building updates will include updated technology, lockers for after-hours book rentals, and more meeting rooms and study spaces.
The renovations and new building will help the library system live up to its promise, Howse said. “The Cleveland Public Library is known as the People’s University. This new facility highlights exactly what the People’s University is.”