Filed Under Education

Frederick Douglass School Library

Since the nineteenth century, the Cincinnati Public Library provided service in the district’s school buildings. Douglass was no different; it housed a small library for the use of its students. 

When Cincinnati Public Schools built a new Frederick Douglass School building in 1911, it included a large library room on the first floor. It was especially built to accommodate adult patrons in the evenings. It had a separate street entrance, so the library could be open when the school building was otherwise closed. In 1912, the Public Library hired a new librarian, Lucille Pitts, to staff the special school branch. Miss Pitts “entered by competitive examination,” apparently the first African-American librarian in the Cincinnati system. She lived on Ashland Avenue, close to the old Walnut Hills High School and just a few blocks from Douglass. She was “given a special apprentice course” and had the assistance of a high-school page and a substitute librarian. The facility was open to adults from the community from noon to five and seven to nine-thirty. Adult circulation was low, although this was in part because “many of them would prefer reading in the pleasant library room to drawing books for home use.” Miss Pitts stayed at the library into 1917. The segregated Douglass School library remained open for decades.

In 1920, a commemorative publication for Frederick Douglass School noted that the library was a branch of the Cincinnati Public Library and helped “foster the reading habit among the children and throughout the community.” The annual circulation stood at about 12,000 volumes, roughly a tenth of the circulation from the much larger Walnut Hills branch. It served 230 new members that year, with an average daily attendance of between 350 and 400 adults and children.

For more information about the school visit the Walnut Hills Historical Socitey enrty at: https://walnuthillsstories.org/stories/a-brief-history-of-the-frederick-douglass-school-buildings/

Metadata

Geoff Sutton, “Frederick Douglass School Library,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed February 6, 2023, https://stories.cincinnatipreservation.org/items/show/60.