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Books: Turning Over a New Leaf

Downtown's Lloyd Library is starting to show off

By Sue Cohen · December 7th, 2005 · Books
  Dating back to 1884, the Lloyd Library serves everyone from scholars to children.
Sean Hughes/photopresse.com

Dating back to 1884, the Lloyd Library serves everyone from scholars to children.

When you pick up a copy of CityBeat, you're reading an alternative newsweekly. The paper covers alternative music and cinema, even alternative medicine. Here's another one for you: Cincinnati has an alternative library -- the Lloyd Library and Museum, at the corner of Plum and Court streets. You've probably walked or driven by it, just north of City Hall. Next time, go in. The Lloyd's world speaks volumes.

The titles you'll find at the Lloyd are diverse: The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents. Marco Polo's Travels. Voodoo Science. Although the library was established to collect botanical, medical, pharmaceutical and scientific books, its collection includes a wide range of subjects such as Kentucky/Ohio history, travel/maps, astronomy, forestry, foreign languages, farming and cooking. Unicorns, too.

The catch is it's a non-circulating library: You can read the books on the premises, but you can't check them out.

Who uses the library?

"Students, professors, local historians, genealogists, herbalists, alternative therapy practitioners," says its director, Maggie Heran. "And clientele from the professional community such as Procter & Gamble, Jergens and the Cincinnati Zoo's Center for Research on Endangered Wildlife. We provide a cozy space and personalized service to each person who comes to visit or use our resources."

Heran brings experience from the University of Cincinnati's Medical Library and the Cincinnati Museum Center to the Lloyd, where she's been director for two years.

"The Lloyd Library is an exciting place where scholars, children and everyone in between can meet on common ground," she says.

According to the library's Web site (www.lloydlibrary.org), the institution is the "realization of the dream of the Lloyd brothers -- John Uri, Nelson Ashley and Curtis Gates." It dates back to 1884, two years before the brothers gained control of a pharmaceutical company, Merrell and Thorpe, renaming it Lloyd Brothers Pharmacists, Inc.

John, the eldest, became a renowned pharmacist and an author of novels. Copies of his works are still at the library. Nelson, the middle brother, also a pharmacist, went into the family business. Curtis, the youngest, traveled the world collecting plant specimens and books. The collection is now 200,000 books and an extensive archive.

The library's current exhibition is Plants in Print: The French Connection, featuring "herbals" -- books about plants with reference to their medical properties printed in Renaissance France. Other items from the library's rare book collection are part of the show.

"I frequently refer to the Lloyd as a place where science and art converge in botanical and natural history illustrations, decorative book arts and original artworks," Heran says, adding that she hopes to offer a changing wall art display in the near future.

The Lloyd's book collection is a world-class set of rare books, manuscripts, reference and research books. The oldest book dates back to 1493, a description in Italian of the medical properties of plants. A copy of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859), inscribed by the author, is a prized possession.

Heran and the Lloyd staff plan to cultivate the curiosity of children. Heather Newkirk, administrative assistant, says its "Budding Artists" program was inspired by the library's youngest patron, Rus Barbour, age 6, who comes to the library with his father. When Newkirk learned of the boy's interest in becoming a naturalist, she invited the two to view the library's copy of John James Audubon's The Art of Audubon: The Complete Birds and Mammals.

"With the remarkable illustrations of animals, plants and flowers as inspiration, Rus, a 'budding artist,' got to work," she says.

This led to the idea of offering drawing and other art programs to children in the community. Barbour's dad, Anthony, with a background in art and design, will conduct the first class on Jan. 14. The class is free, but reservations are necessary (513-721-3707).

PLANTS IN PRINT: THE FRENCH CONNECTION is on view through Jan. 15, 2006.


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