The Cleveland Public Library’s Sterling Branch, located at the corner of E. 30th and Central Ave., is a staple in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood. Since its doors opened back in 1913, Sterling Library has served as much more than a place for residents to come and check out books; it’s served as a place to build community.
From the 1800s up until the early 1900s, the Central neighborhood was home to folks from many different backgrounds. The neighborhood once consisted mainly of African Americans alongside immigrants from Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Germany.
The library, which once had skylight peeking in through its high windows and double doors that opened directly out into a back lawn, served as a meeting place for community groups, including the Society of the Blind’s Book Club. The back lawn, which has since been replaced by a parking lot, was a common place for children in the neighborhood to gather.
Fast forward to the present day and Sterling Library still offers this same community presence that it did back in the day, along with continuing to maintain its strong relationship with the children in the neighborhood.
Sterling dedicates a lot of its attention to the youth that spend time daily in the library. Sterling’s branch manager, Monica Rudzinski, notes that her and her staff’s daily mission is to “make sure the kids had a good day.” The library allows kids a place to study, have a meal, access computers, or simply just relax after school. This significant focus on youth has lead to some phenomenal programming being done, specifically in regard to food and the arts.
In partnership with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Sterling is able to offer youth in the neighborhood free meals through their Kids Cafe and Summer Lunch Program. The library’s exceptional arts programming allows youth to express themselves through art therapy workshops, musical and dance performances, and take a yearly trip to the Morgan Conservancy to learn about paper and bookmaking. The library also has a strong partnership with Cleveland State University. CSU students are regularly available at the library for after school tutoring and occupational therapy students put together activities for youth in partnership with Sterling.
While it does operate like any other library with its access to public computers, book checkouts, and programs for the surrounding neighborhood, Sterling is quite unique in the strong community its built over the years. Rudzinski notes that many of the same children enjoy coming to the library every single day after school, folks from the neighborhood often come by and share personal stories with the staff, and a lot of residents and the staff know each other by name. In the words of Rudzinski and staff: “Sterling is like a family.”
(All historic photos courtesy of Sterling Library)
If you’re interested in learning more about Cleveland Public Library’s Sterling Branch and its history, check out these links:
Article by: Connor O’Brien