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Library Will Not Sell North Building, Will Pursue New Levy

This is the building the library says it doesn't need and is considering selling.
Bill Rinehart
This is the building the library says it doesn't need and is considering selling.

Updated 5:55 p.m.

In a Dec. 20 memo to members of the Cincinnati Hamilton County Public Library Trustees a library committee recommends retaining ownership and re-purposing the North building instead of selling it. The trustees will also put a new levy on the May 2018 ballot. 

The memo says the recommendation "comes after considering the recent appraisal, and community input..."

A release from the trustees says the new one mill levy is needed for library operations and for the facilities plan. Trustees say decreasing state aid is hurting the library system finances. The library currently has a levy that is set to expire in 2023.

Wednesday morning during the Hamilton County Commission meeting President Todd Portune said, "The people have spoken and the board listened and that outcome is now moving in a different direction.

The proposed sale was controversial, drew protests from the group "Our Library, Our Decision Coalition." According to the group's Charles Campbell, "Why are we talking about shrinking a library? Other systems are growing."

At Wednesday's County Commission meeting the group's Ben Stockwell said, "We know there's unanimous public support for keeping the north building open but it shouldn't been a burden on working people for the library to sort its funding issues out."

The library takes up two blocks. Board members were considering the sale of the building north of Ninth Street.

Executive Director Kim Fender says the library doesn't need all the space. She told Hamilton County Commissioners this fall the main branch is significantly underused based on its size. A feasibility study, she says, indicates the four public departments in the North wing could be moved to the South wing with room for operations and growth.

Fender says an industry guideline for library size is one square foot per resident. Commissioner Chris Monzel pointed out 500,000 people would need to live Downtown and in Over-the-Rhine to justify the size of the main branch.

Former Library Trustee President Allen Zaring told commissioners earlier the building is just too large. "It's twice as large as it needs to be."

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With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.