The Mercantile Library of Cincinnati is a membership library located in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio.The name of the Library refers not to the type of items in its collection but to the forty-five merchants and clerks who founded it on April 18, 1835 as the Young Men's Mercantile Library Association , a group which included William Henry Harrison.
Throughout the Library's history, many of its books have been donated by members. It originally contained approximately seven hundred books which were housed at a location on Main Street near Pearl Street. In 1840 the collection of 1660 books was moved to the second floor of the Cincinnati College building on the present site.The collection now numbers more than 200,000 volumes, including an especially large number pertaining to Cincinnati and Ohio. Most of the items circulate.
The Library's tradition of cultural programs was initiated by its founders and has featured prominent writers and thinkers since its first lecture series in the 1840s. Speakers in the early days included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wendell Phillips, W. M. Thackeray, Edward Everett, Herman Melville, Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe; more recent programs have brought writers and speakers like John Updike, Tom Wolfe, and Jonathan Winters.
Many events, including courses, concerts, author readings and book signings, are scheduled at noon for the convenience of members and visitors who work and shop downtown.