CWRU Links

LIBRARIES, ETHNIC

LIBRARIES, ETHNIC. The large number of immigrant groups that have come to Cleveland have had a profound effect on its libraries, requiring the major public library to evolve a noted collection of works in foreign languages and leading to the establishment of a variety of private libraries by various nationality groups. In each case, the libraries met a need to provide reading materials in familiar languages and relating to topics particular to the interest of a specific ethnic group. The CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY began early in its history to hold and lend books in foreign languages, German being the first of any importance. By the early 1900s, CPL had placed books in Yiddish and other languages in a variety of its branches; for instance, the library at HIRAM HOUSE social settlement held Yiddish and, later, Italian works that appealed to members of the Jewish and Italian neighborhood that surrounded the settlement. The library's success in providing ethnic reading materials may well have retarded the development of independent libraries within smaller and more mobile ethnic communities in Cleveland. In 1924 the Foreign Literature Div. (as it was then called) became a separate entity; then, foreign-language collections were housed in branch libraries geographically situated in close proximity to the ethnic groups they served. The transfer of branch collections, first the Foreign Literature Div. and later to the Foreign Literature Dept., began in 1926, when the Hebrew collection was moved downtown from FRIENDLY INN SOCIAL SETTLEMENT.

Edith Wirt had worked with the foreign collections for 6 years prior to becoming the first head of the Foreign Literature Div. in 1924. She shaped the department into its current (1994) form. Under her administration, 7 language collections, including Chinese and Japanese, were added to the department between 1925-62. Five collections were transferred from branches to the main library during the same period. Also important during the formative years of the collection was ELEANOR E. LEDBETTER, a branch librarian at the Broadway branch, responsible for the Bohemian (Czech) and Polish collections. Thelma Rose succeeded Wirt as head in 1966. During her administration, 7 more language collections, including Korean, Swahili, and Vietnamese, were added in 1969; 4 were transferred from neighborhood branches. Karen Draut-Long was the fourth head of the department in 1995, following Natalia Bezugloff. In 1973, when materials in Byelorussian were added to the Foreign Literature, CPL became the first public library in the country to own such a collection. In 1977 the Scandinavian collection was divided into 3 separate entities: Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. As ethnic neighborhoods slowly began to disappear, the transfer of ethnic collections from branches to the main library was completed in 1978, when the Hungarian collection from the Carnegie-West branch was consolidated with the other collections downtown.

In 1995 the total number of book titles representing 45 languages stood at 240,000. The periodical titles numbered 140, while 1,600 cassettes and video cassettes were available for loan. There were 331 titles on cassettes, constituting a total of 3,691 cassettes. These were mainly language-learning and literary recordings. Although initially compiled to assist ethnic readers, many of the materials in the department lend themselves to research by students and scholars in a variety of disciplines. CPL's Foreign Literature Dept. was the largest among public libraries in this country. Its collections served as a model for many autonomous ethnic libraries throughout the city, a number of which were still active in 1995.

The Croatian Library & Heritage Room is housed in the Croatian Natl. Lodge, "Cardinal Stepinac," at Lakeshore Blvd. and Ohio 91 in Eastlake. Croatia, Inc., and the American-Croatian Cultural & Educational Ctr. were responsible for this effort, which housed 3,000 titles and 10,000 magazines. The Sokol Greater Cleveland Library, located in the BOHEMIAN NATL. HALL at 4939 Broadway, was begun in 1975 when the Sokol purchased the hall. Open for Sokol members by appointment only, the library consisted of approx. 1,000 titles in 1995. The library stressed Czech and Slovak history, culture, customs, folklore, and arts and crafts. The library also held collections of Czech and Slovak costumes, ceramics, glass, dolls, paintings, and medals. The collection of the Cleveland Estonian Assn., "Arendaja," was housed at 8131 Strongsville Blvd., Strongsville, in 1986. Five volunteers supported the work. The Arendaja was founded in Cleveland in 1925. About the same time, the library was established through the efforts of the first president, Wm. J. Walley (1925-81). Edgar Riiel succeeded Walley. The total number of book titles in 1986 was 143, with 36 periodicals. Emphasis rested on history, drama, and poetry. A small collection in English dealing with the history of Estonia was housed in the Institute for Soviet & East European Studies at JOHN CARROLL UNIV. Another Estonian collection was also located at Kent State Univ.

A number of manuscripts, publications, and other documentation relating to the German-American organizations of Greater Cleveland were at the WESTERN RESERVE HISTORICAL SOCIETY in 1995. Also at the WRHS was the Dr. Robt. E. Ward Collection of Americana-Germanica which related to local German history, and particularly to German-American genealogy. A German book collection of 3,000 titles is also housed at Lenau Park, the German-American Cultural Ctr. of the Danube Swabians, 7370 Columbia Rd., Olmsted Twp.; the project was sponsored by the Cleveland Chap. of the Danube Swabians. The Greek collection of the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Library was located at 22909 Center Ridge Rd., ROCKY RIVER, in 1990. St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church opened its doors in 1970. In 1972 the library was established as a circulating library and the Orthodox reference center. In 1986 the book collection totaled approx. 1,000 titles, equally divided between Greek and English, as well as 5 periodicals, phonographs, records, and tapes.

In 1995 there were a number of Jewish libraries in the Greater Cleveland community, almost all of which were represented by the Jewish Library Assn. of Cleveland. The 2 largest Jewish collections were the TEMPLE and Fairmount Temple (see ANSHE CHESED) libraries. The Temple Library was housed both at the Temple, Univ. Circle at Silver Park, and at the Temple Branch, 26000 Shaker Blvd., BEACHWOOD. The library was established by Rabbi MOSES J. GRIES in 1898. In 1904 it temporarily became a branch of the CPL. In 1924 the Temple Library was converted to an exclusively Jewish library devoted entirely to Jewish and religious subjects. The total number of book titles reached 40,000 by 1986; 99% were in English. There were 71 periodicals, plus a large number of bound periodicals no longer in print, dating from 1921; 95% were in English. Other holdings included phonograph records, cassettes, and video cassettes. The other sizable Jewish collection, the Anshe Chesed Library, is housed at the Arthur J. Lelyveld Ctr. for Jewish Learning of Fairmount Temple, 23737 Fairmount Blvd. The Anshe Chesed Library began as a children's library supervised by a volunteer, Maurice Goldberg. In 1923 an annex with a library was added to the Euclid Ave. Temple. Eda Wolpaw of CPL served as first librarian. In 1957 the new Fairmount Temple included a spacious library. In 1986 a new addition tripled the size of the library. It held 25,000 titles in 1995. Both libraries feature resources on Jewish history and stress materials and documents of the Holocaust. The papers of Rabbi ABBA HILLEL SILVER are housed in the Temple Library and have been microfilmed in a cooperative project with the Western Reserve Historical Society. Additional Jewish collections are maintained by a variety of other congregations, the Bureau of Jewish Education (see JEWISH EDUCATION CENTER OF CLEVELAND), the College of Jewish Studies, the JEWISH COMMUNITY FED. OF CLEVELAND, the JEWISH COMMUNITY CTR., and a number of other schools and organizations within the community.

The Latvian Assn. of Cleveland Library was housed at 15120 Detroit Ave., LAKEWOOD, in 1995. The library was founded in 1955 by the Latvian Assn. of Cleveland and was supported by that organization into the 1980s. The collection numbered 2,000 titles in 1986, of which only 1% were in English. Its strength was in Latvian poetry and history. In 1968 Cleveland's Lithuanian community became actively engaged in collecting and preserving Lithuanian books, periodicals, manuscripts, journals, and other materials of historical and sociological value. Dr. John Cadzow of Kent State Univ. undertook the task of finding a home for the Lithuanian library. By 1970 the Cleveland Lithuanian Committee in Support of the Cleveland Lithuanian Library & Collection (headed by Dr. Viktoras Stankus) made a formal agreement with Kent State Univ. to house the Lithuanian Library there. In 1995 it was the largest such collection between New York and Chicago.

The Alliance of Poles Library, housed in the Alliance of Poles building at 6968 Broadway, was the last Polish library in Cleveland by the mid-1990s. In 1925 Branch 50 of the Alliance of Poles offered the then-president of the alliance, Frank Rell, their branch's 600 books and $300 for the new library in the newly constructed building of the Alliance of Poles on Broadway. In 1995 the collection numbered 5,239 book titles, of which 90% were in Polish. In addition to the Alliance of Poles Library, there were 2 Polish Library homes in Cleveland, one located in the Corlett neighborhood and the other, larger one on Kenilworth Ave. The Kenilworth library's operations stopped in 1982 and a number of books were donated to CLEVELAND STATE UNIV.

The Romanian Library was housed at ST. MARY'S ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH in 1995. The collection was started in 1928. Fr. John Trutza (pastor, 1928-54) was instrumental in the early growth of the collection. His work was continued by Rev. Fr. Vasile Hategan, who succeeded him in 1954. Two fires, in 1968 and 1972, destroyed many volumes. Approximately 4,000 book titles form the collection, 250 in English. The library also holds periodicals, tapes, phonograph records, video cassettes, and films. The strength of the collection is in history, literature, and biography. Attached to the library is the Romanian Ethnographic Museum, which holds original paintings by Romanian artists, costumes, ceramics, icons, wood carvings, rugs, and a host of Romanian artifacts.

In 1986 work was being completed on creating a Serbian collection at St. Sava Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church of Cleveland at 2125 Wallings Rd., BROADVIEW HTS. Plans by the church to start a library were initiated by Djordje Djelic at the beginning of 1983. By 1986 1,500 book titles had been accumulated; 20% in English. In connection with the library, a Serbian ethnographic museum was also being organized. The Slovak Institute Library, part of the Slovak Institute at ST. ANDREW'S ABBEY, at 2900 Martin Luther King Blvd. The library is a private collection of the Slovak Benedictines of St. Andrew's Abbey and is used by appointment only. The library was established in the fall of 1941 by Abbot Theodore Kajis, OSB. The Slovak Institute took it over in 1952. In Nov. 1985 the library was moved to its present quarters in the abbey. The collection consists of 10,000 book titles, only 5% in English.

In 1986 the home of the Slovenian library (Slovenska Norodna Citalnica) was the Slovenian Natl. Home at 6417 St. Clair Ave. In Aug. 1906 Rajko Feigel and Frank Jauh-Kern, editors of Cleveland's Slovenian newspaper Nova Domovina (New Homeland) met in Knaus Hall with other Slovenian pioneers regarding the establishment of a library. As a result, the Citalnica was opened in G. Travnikar's Saloon. In 1924 it was moved to its present (1995) location. The library was the leading proponent for the construction of the Slovenian Natl. Home. In 1995 the collection consisted of 3,200 book titles. Nearly all were in Slovenian. Thirty-five periodical titles in 290 volumes were available. The collection is strongest in Slovenian literature and history, as well as folklore and art.

The Ukrainian collection is part of the UKRAINIAN MUSEUM-ARCHIVES, INC., at 1202 Kenilworth Ave. in Cleveland. The collection was available by appointment only in 1995. The museum-archives was founded in Mar. 1952 by Prof. Leonid Bachynsky, who served as president of the institution for 25 years. The collection consisted of 25,000 book titles, all in Ukrainian in 1995. Periodical titles numbered 1,000 with 5% in English. The collection is strong in various editions of works by the Ukrainian national poet, Taras Shevchenko. Particularly important was the collection of Ukrainian newspapers, published by Ukrainian communities throughout the world since 1953.

While the number and nationality of ethnic libraries has varied throughout the city's history, they have always served 2 primary needs, the first being to provide literature in a familiar and understandable language, and the second being to preserve national culture. The former purpose was most characteristic of the earlier efforts, including those of the CPL, while the second seems to have characterized the collections that were begun in the post-World War II years. The establishment in 1986 of a library-museum at St. Elizabeth's Hungarian Catholic Church is most indicative of the latter trend, as it is located in a community that is not largely Hungarian-speaking. Rather, like several of the examples cited above, it seems predicated on the need to preserve cultural attributes in a museum-like situation. That was a strong component of Cleveland's nationality life during the ethnic revival of the 1970s and 1980s, and similar efforts could be cited for groups as diverse as the Irish and Italians. Newer communities, such as the Spanish-speaking migrants and immigrants, also established libraries and cultural centers, for instance, the Hispanic Cultural Center (see CENTRO CULTURAL HISPANO DE CLEVELAND). The future of ethnic libraries in the city will depend upon the size, need, and degree of self-perception of future immigrant groups and the ability of mainline organizations such as the CPL to meet those needs.

Jerzy J. Maciuszko