Locke Branch Library celebrates 100 years

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by Mark Reiter, courtesy of the Toledo Blade

There have been many changes to libraries since the Locke Branch (Toledo, OH) opened its doors to patrons nearly 100 years ago.

The library’s card catalogs have been replaced by computer databases, books and magazines are matched by the Internet, and video games are key attractions for some visitors.  Supporters, patrons, local elected leaders, and others gathered Friday at Locke Branch of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library to celebrate and pay tribute to its centennial.

Clyde Scoles, executive director of the library system, said the branch is an example of a community success story.

“When you champion self-improvement, unity, human rights, and uphold values of freedom, equality, safety, and access to information, good things happen. What we are celebrating today is a testament to all of that,” he said.

Most of Locke Branch’s existence was at 806 Main St. It moved into the new facility at 703 Miami St. in August, 2007, as the final piece of a 10-year renovation project by the library system.

Opened to the public on Dec. 5, 1917, Locke Library was the first of five branches built on city-owned land and paid for with money donated by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.

The branch, then located on Main Street at Greenwood Avenue, was named in honor of David Ross Locke, whose anti-slavery writings under the pen name Petroleum V. Nasby brought him national attention and made a fan of President Abraham Lincoln.

Mr. Locke was editor of what then was The Toledo Blade from 1865 until his death in 1888. His son, Robinson Locke, continued the family ownership of the newspaper until his death in 1920. It was later purchased from Mr. Locke’s estate by Paul Block, Sr.

The Blade publisher and editor-in-chief John Robinson Block speaks during a ceremony at the Locke Branch Library in Toledo to recognize 100 years of librarJohn Robinson Block, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Blade, was the keynote speaker for the event.  He said his father, Paul Block, Jr., was given the blessings of Mr. Locke’s widow to use Robinson as his middle name.  “I have always felt very proud to be named for him,” he said. “I’ve always felt that Robinson Locke was part of me. Being told about him as a child inspired me.”

Mr. Block said the Lockes would be very proud that the branch still carries their family name and continues to offer inspiration to East Toledo and the community.

“I think [Robinson Locke] would be very interested in people who use this library,” he said. “That some little boy or little girl would be inspired through access to books and knowledge, and possibly would gain interest in theater, would gain interest in history, would gain interest in diplomacy, and might want to go abroad and be an American diplomat as he did. I think he would understand that a little boy or girl using this library might grow up to be a leader of this country.”

Locke Branch was the first branch outside the old Main Library in downtown Toledo.  According to a story reporting the grand opening, Robinson Locke attended and may have spoken at the library’s dedication.

He presented an oil portrait of his late father to the library, where it was displayed prominently for many years.  In reporting on the dedication, The Blade said the branch “marks a new departure in library services in the city.”  The branch was built for a total cost of $22,587 on land valued at $6,100 donated by the city.

December, 1917, was a big month for the fledgling city library system. Kent Branch, also built with Carnegie Foundation funds, opened Dec. 11, 1917, on Central Avenue at Collingwood Boulevard.