We are Cincinnati's gathering place for readers & writers, and have been since 1835. We're home to over 85,000 books and host hundreds of events every year – all in the most beautiful space in the city.
The most common question asked of us is: what IS a membership library?
For us, it means we work in partnership with our members. We are privately funded, relying entirely on dues, donations, and the money we have saved up since 1835. With no government support and no university to lean on, we have to run lean, but the benefits are magnificent.
We answer only to ourselves and our members. We never ban books and judge authors on the merits of their work. Every day we actively encourage free thought and difficult conversations.
Our entire staff is ready to recommend books for you. We will also encourage you to walk the stacks and find your own treasure, with perhaps some subtle guidance. Your fellow members are also voracious readers -- and happy to let you know what book you should read next. Or not.
And, thanks in part to our 10,000-year lease, memberships are affordable.
Banding together for self-improvement; surviving two fires; a world-record holding 10,000 year-lease; speakers from Melville, Thackeray, Emerson, Updike, Cisneros, Kearns Goodwin, to Atwood and beyond; Cincinnati's first telegraph machine; four different buildings — all make up part of our history.
We love books. And talking about books. The Mercantile Library is where you will find books and book experts of all kinds. We are a staff who loves to read, is more than happy to make recommendations for you, and works hard to find the best and newest writers out there.
Board of Directors
From Moses Ranney to Gabrielle Blocher, the Mercantile Library Board has been comprised of a diverse group of Cincinnatians — business and civic leaders alike, who care about democratizing knowledge.
In the News
We've been making news since 1835.
The Merc on Social
Bookstagram, facebook, shelfies, booktok, we're here @themercantilelib
Get your questions answered by Mercantile Librarians.
Artist in Residence
Artwork at has been a part of what we do since 1841 when R.H. Parry gave us an oil portrait of Andrew Jackson. While that piece has been lost to history (likely a fire) we continue to build the collection with our Artist-in-Residence program.
The Mercantile Library has been the informal home of Cincinnati's Poet Laureate since the program began in 2016. And in 2022, we made it official.
Greater Cincinnati is home to a world class arts and culture community. Just about any day or night of the week, you’ll find things to do — downtown and all around.
Join the Library