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Mercantile Library gears up for historic expansion

Mercantile Library Exterior
Posted at 4:40 PM, Aug 11, 2021

CINCINNATI — One of the oldest private lending libraries in the country is getting ready for a historic moment.

"We are incredibly excited about this opportunity," said John Faherty, executive director for The Mercantile Library. "I mean we're 186 years old and I honestly think this is the biggest change we ever experienced."

Faherty is currently seeking an architect firm to oversee the Mercantile Library's largest expansion within its current location at 414 Walnut St., Downtown. The Mercantile Library first opened inside the original Mercantile Building in the 1840s.

The library has occupied a portion of three buildings at the same location since that time. One building on the site burned and two others have since been built on the property.

"But really, since the time of the fire in the 1840s, we've been in this exactly same-sized space," Faherty said.

That space mostly involves occupying the 11th story of the Mercantile Building, which is what the library currently calls home. In the near future, though, the Mercantile Library will expand into the 12th floor as well.

Early this year the Model Group approached Faherty with an offer to bequeath the 12th floor to the library as part of the group's plan to convert most of the Mercantile Building into residential apartments. The Model Group purchased the building this summer.

"They were looking for a way to really celebrate the library to have it be, to have it play a big role in what they want this building to become," Faherty said.

He added that when the Model Group first announced its plans to renovate the building earlier this year, the plans created a lot of buzz for the library's more than 2,000 members.

"And we've had a bunch of members say, 'Oh, when those apartments come up, I will be looking at them,'" Faherty said.

As far as that added space is concerned, Faherty said, the library plans to expand its 2,000-plus book collection into the 12th floor and to also create an area to host more programming at the library.

The library regularly hosts yoga classes and special speaker events for its members. Faherty in turn hopes those added events continue to raise the profile of the library in the public eye.

"When I got here six years ago, and when I first got here, so many people said, 'Ah, you're the best-kept secret in the city. And I don't want to be a secret to anybody," he said.

Faherty said anyone can become a member of the private library. Membership dues start at $55 a year.

For more information about the Mercantile Library, visit