Mercantile Library of Cincinnati
The Mercantile Library of Cincinnati is a membership library located in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. The name of the Library refers not to the type of items in its collection but to the forty-five merchants and clerks who founded it on April 18, 1835 as the Young Men's Mercantile Library Association.
Throughout the Library's history, many of its books have been donated by members. It originally contained approximately seven hundred books which were housed at a location on Main Street near Pearl Street. In 1840 the collection of 1660 books was moved to the second floor of the Cincinnati College building on the present site. The collection now numbers more than 200,000 volumes, including an especially large number pertaining to Cincinnati and Ohio. Most of the items circulate. While there was originally a ban on novels, the ban has since been lifted. Currently the collection is more general. 
The Mercantile Library Building at 414 Walnut Street that currently houses the Library is the fourth structure on the site. The space on the eleventh and twelfth floors was designed for the Library in 1903 and the building was completed in 1908. Many of the shelves, desks and chairs currently in the Library date back to previous buildings which were destroyed by fire. The institution's perpetually renewable 10,000-year lease was issued by the Cincinnati College, which merged with the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1911, in exchange for the men of the Mercantile Library Association helping the college to rebuild after its structure burned in 1845. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2021.
The Library's tradition of cultural programs was initiated by its founders and has featured prominent writers and thinkers since its first lecture series in the 1840s. Speakers in the early days included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wendell Phillips, W. M. Thackeray, Edward Everett, Herman Melville, Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe; more recent programs have brought writers and speakers like John Updike, Tom Wolfe, and Jonathan Winters. Many events, including courses, concerts, author readings and book signings, are scheduled at noon for the convenience of members and visitors who work and shop downtown.
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