The Mentor Public Library is celebrating their 200th Anniversary of serving the citizens of Mentor and surrounding communities. It was in February 1819, when citizens of formed The Mentor Library Company. The first collection of materials were comprised of just 79 volumes and were housed in private homes. Patrons had to purchase shares in the library to borrow books.
The story continued in 1889 when the Mentor Village Library Board, led by President Garfield’s son, James R., set on the goal of establishing a public library and reading room. The collection of 288 books was located in Village Hall and was open twice a week to residents 15 and older.
The Library grew over the years and the first permanent library building opened in 1903 with a collection of over 2,000 books. The structure was designed by another of President Garfield’s sons, Abram. Today, that building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the home of the Confectionary Cupboard.
Francis Cleveland was appointed Librarian in 1906 and made it her life’s work to expand the Library by advocating for improvements like electric lights, enhancing the book collection, and starting a children’s story hour. She even delivered books by horse and wagon in the early years. The entire community mourned her passing in 1943. And, while Miss Cleveland is gone, her legacy and the foundation she provided for our library lives on to this day.
In 1959 Mentor voters passed a bond issue to build a new building and by the end of the next year, the Mentor Library opened in its current location on Mentor Avenue.
Over the next several decades, the population of city dramatically increased By the 1980s, the Mentor Avenue facility was bursting at the seams. The Library Board determined that an expansion was necessary to house their ever-growing book collection and to offer even more programs to serve the community. In 1991, a 30,000 square foot addition opened, which included a new children’s section, meeting rooms, seating areas, and additional space to hold materials.
Since then, the the Mentor Public Library has continued to expand its mark on the community by opening branches in the Mentor Headlands and Mentor on the Lake. In 2009, they purchased the historic Reed house which is located next to the main branch. Re-christened as the “Read House”, this home is used for book sales, children’s programs, and other events.
Today, the Library’s collection includes over 199,000 items. Their mission remains the same – to foster lifelong enrichment by providing materials, services, and programs for literacy, learning, and pleasure. Thanks, MPL for your contribution to the Mentor community and we look forward to the story continuing for many years to come.
Throughout this bicentennial year, the Library is hosting special events and a reading incentive program with great prizes. Learn more at mentorpl.org.