Early photo of the famed Cincinnati Public Library shows an information world before computers

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Historical Cincinnati Public Library Photo

Photo by Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

The historical Public Library of Cincinnati, which is no longer in the building pictured in the photo, was a gorgeous showplace for books, and is a stark contrast to the libraries of today, which typically feature more windows, light and versatile space. If the library had maintained its presence in this building to this day, it would no doubt still be popular for both its rare collection and for aesthetic reasons. The photo was featured in a historical photo spread by the TESTED blog, and a more in-depth account of the library with additional photos can be found at Buzzfeed.

Tested writes:

In an age of information being compressible to tiny electrical impulses, its easy to forget that the great libraries of the past were overwhelming storehouses of information. This fascinating picture from the Cincinnati Public Library was taken in the 1870s in the Main Hall. Widely believed to be the most impressive public library in the country during the 19th century, it sported five tiers of alcoves for shelving, with narrow walkways between them.


Mickel is an MLIS and the creator of Library Currents. His inspiration for the blog was the SJSU course "The Hyperlinked Library" taught by Dr. Michael Stephens, a course that is also a worldwide MOOC. If you wish to contact him, feel free to write to Mickel Paris at librarycurrents1@aol.com.

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