Written by Mary Kleemeier, Library Customer Advisor, Blue Ash Branch Library
The Blue Ash Branch Library is one of CHPL's busiest library locations with a rich history and passionate customers. Take a look at how the Blue Ash Branch Library came to be - with its origins beginning in the 1930s to current day. Then, find the branch's current staff "take over" CHPL's Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok from June 5-9. You'll see behind-the-scenes videos of this popular branch and content all week long about the events, collections, and more going on at the branch!
Librarians of Blue Ash's Past
Many decades before the Blue Ash Branch Library stood where it is today, a young Alma Weber was hard at work putting books into the hands of Sycamore Township residents from her father’s grocery store on the corner of Cooper and Railroad Ave., which also housed the post office, run by her mother. She earned $0.05 per book checked out.
Starting in the 1930s, a Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library staff member, believed to be Miss Elizabeth Wuest, a professional librarian assistant, began taking photos with a Kodak camera while working on the Library’s “book wagon” service. The Bookmobile Service serviced remote country schools and “book stops” in villages, general stores, and country crossroads, including Hazelwood, a predominantly black community in Blue Ash, eventually annexed in 1959. In 1937, Miss Wuest snapped a photo of the people of Hazelwood enjoying the Bookmobile’s collection.
The Montgomery Women’s Club circulated petitions seeking a library in the Sycamore area in the early 1960s, and by 1962, CHPL began working with the Pistler-Brown architects and Arthur Rabkin Construction Company to design a 20th century, 7,200 square foot, 30,000 volume-capacity location, then called the Sycamore Branch Library. It had its grand opening on June 8, 1964, only three years after Blue Ash was incorporated as a city.
Librarians Jane McGregor and Jane Lewis of the Downtown Main Library chose 20,000 out of the 30,000 initial books for the branch, and Alma Weber joined the Sycamore branch as its first Children’s Librarian, where she stayed as Children’s Librarian and Head Librarian until she retired in 1973.
Douglas Robinson joined the Sycamore branch in 1968 as librarian, and was Branch Manager by 1987, when its remodel and expansion was complete and the branch’s staff and collection moved back to 4911 Cooper Rd.
For the previous two years, customers checked out their books in a building behind UDF in the Towne Center Square. After the remodel, the branch had 12,500 square feet, and increased its collection size to 54,000 items. The Sycamore Branch Library became the most heavily-used branch in the system for years, second only to the Downtown Main Library.
The annual Summer Reading program, now called Discover Summer, has always been a hit, as evidenced by the enthusiastic display of participation in this photo with then-Children’s Librarian, Pegge Mirus, from 1979.
Storytimes have always been popular with Blue Ash families, and generations of residents fondly remember storytimes told by their favorite librarians, like Emogene Stephenson.
In January 2001, the Sycamore Branch Library was renamed the Blue Ash Branch Library to create a closer identity with the community. Eight other branch libraries were renamed at the same time.
Longtime customers of the Blue Ash Branch Library will remember Joel Corneli, the Reference Librarian and Assistant Manager for the branch for roughly 30 years before retiring in 2012. He loved his library so much, he even briefly volunteered at the branch, even after retiring. In 2004, the Hazelwood Legacy Project displayed photos and antiques of Hazelwood at the branch, working closely with Joel.
2024 will be the Blue Ash Branch Library's 60th anniversary! Help us celebrate early by visiting the branch, checking out materials, admiring the mid-century design, and chatting with our friendly staff members. Don't forget to follow CHPL on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok as branch staff "take over" the accounts from June 5-9.