Over-the-Rhine's Play Library hopes to connect neighbors via fun and games

Posted at 11:13 AM, Apr 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-21 13:41:24-04

CINCINNATI — Play time is no longer just for children.

That is the message Julia Fischer will deliver 6 p.m. Friday when she opens the Play Library near Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine.

“The Play Library is just like a regular library, except instead of books it is checking out toys and games,” said Fischer, who worked in the toy industry for 12 years. “The idea of it is, the whole thing behind the library, is that it is a place where people can come and play together.”

The library is located inside of the lobby of People's Liberty at 1805 Elm St. Members will be able to check out items for a nominal fee, and visitors will be able to play with toys and games for free on site, Fischer said.

People's Liberty, a philanthropic foundation that promotes positive community growth and interaction, donated the space for the Play Library for three months as part of a $15,000 Globe grant it awarded Fischer in 2015. The Globe grant, named after the building that People's Liberty occupies, is one of 21 grants that the organization awards each year.  

"People’s Liberty, in general, is looking for creative people in the community who have ideas we think are going to get people to engage and react with others," said Eric Avner, People's Liberty CEO. "Julia’s idea was playful. It was for all ages. It transcended all backgrounds. Everybody likes to play. It was an easy fit for us."

Fischer said a phone conversation with her mother while she lived in Los Angeles a few years ago sparked the idea for the library. Her mother apologized for not spending enough time with her as a child because of work and other commitments. Fischer said she found the apology unnecessary; her best childhood memories were of playing with her parents.

“It’s quality of time over quantity of time,” Fischer said. “Play connects people — family, friends and neighbors.”

When she moved to Cincinnati almost two years ago for work she fell in love with Over-the-Rhine.

“There are a lot of different socio-economic groups there and I would like for everyone to play and get along,” she said.

Fischer began collecting donations for the library from former employers several months ago. Volunteers helped her decorate the space inside the Globe over the past month.

Fischer is also hosting summer play camps at Washington Park and special event nights in the library once it opens.

“What I hope to stress is that it’s not just for kids,” she said. “I want people to know it’s for everyone.”

Fischer also hopes she will find the library a permanent home in September through the exposure and support provided by People's Liberty. Past Globe grant recipients, such as We Have Become Vikings, have experienced continued success after their tenure at People's Liberty, Avner said.

"They are just individuals who have very interesting ideas," Avner said of his organization's grant winners. "Those are people who are going to take a larger role in the community as well. I expect Julia will leave her mark on this city and community."