When I moved to Cleveland a few years ago I was quite ignorant and not particularly optimistic about my new home city. Well, I was leaving New York so that may explain my misgivings about the vibrancy of Cleveland and its cultural life. I am glad to report I was completely wrong.
One of the local institutions that completely changed my perspective was the Cleveland Library. I’ll call it that for short though what I am actually referring to is CLEVNET, a network of 44 public library branches located in the Greater Cleveland with the Cleveland Public Library at its core.
When I entered our bright welcoming local branch with Minette in her baby carrier, nearly five years ago, it was love at first sight. So many books, CDs, and DVDs neatly displayed. A children’s section with plenty of books and games and a colorful play and literacy area. Friendly and helpful librarians. It felt like a second home almost instantly.
Five years on and our love story is still going strong. If anything, I have now even more reasons to be grateful to the Cleveland Library. One of these is its incredibly rich catalog of books and other materials. I was once told that it is second only to that of the New York Public Library and I don’t find it hard to believe. With currently more than 2 million book titles available – and I am not even talking about CDs, DVDs and other materials – CLEVNET is a simply amazing resource. The book you are looking for is not at your regular branch? Not a problem, you can reserve it online or at your branch and have it sent there. You’ll get an email when it has arrived.
The library is also a blessing for readers in foreign languages. My librarian friend tells me there are more than 100 hundred languages in the catalog. I regularly get books in French (63,000+ titles available!) for Minette or for me. When Thatha and Aachi are visiting they can take their picks in a corpus of 541 Tamil books. How’s that for multicultural?
As if that were not enough, the library offers a broad variety of activities, talks on local and global subjects, and training. Story time is particularly dear to me. That’s where I met three of my best Cleveland friends when our babies were just starting to crawl. Several years have past since; our kids go to different schools but these fellow moms – one American-Polish, one American, and one Japanese – and their families are still in the foreground of our life and I am most grateful for that.
I also value the fact that our local branch is the place I visit regularly where I find the most socio-economic and racial diversity. People come here from different backgrounds with different needs and expectations but they obviously share a common sense that the library is a force for good in their and their families’ life. When I am at the library I feel connected in a very real way to both present and past Cleveland. I see the opening of its first branch nearly 150 years ago as strong evidence of the city’s long history of empowering its people.
The library is this safe and warm place open to everyone from where everyone can explore the world at their own pace and convenience. I treasure it for what it means to my family and for what it brings to our adoptive community. And that is well worth an ode.