On August 26, 1848, the Chardon Public Library was organized at the meeting of interested persons at the Geauga County Courthouse. John French, County Recorder, was chosen Librarian. Donated books were housed in the Recorder’s Office and were administered as an association library with membership fees. The library collection grew and was moved several times before a village library in the Village Hall was established and a library board was appointed in 1913. In 1929 the Village Council established the legal status of the library by creating it as a municipal institution. In 1936, intangible taxes were received for the first time, and service to county schools began.
Library extension services were established throughout the county during the succeeding years. A branch library was established in Middlefield in 1942. Library service in Chesterland got its start in the late 1940s when a dedicated resident, Mary Eykyn, delivered books to the township’s children at the Chester summer day camp in her own home-made version of a bookmobile — a modified baby buggy outfitted with bookshelves to hold around 100 books borrowed from the Chardon Branch. A branch library was established in Chesterland in 1957.
In 1963, the library was designated a County District Library by the County Commissioners at the request of the Library Board. A new seven-member Library Board of Trustees was created and the name Geauga County Public Library became its official designation.
Geauga County Public Library continued to grow with the establishment of the Bainbridge Library in 1965. The Chardon Branch moved into its present building on Chardon Square in 1970 and has been renovated several times over the years to meet service demands and space needs. The Chardon Branch houses the major genealogy and local history collection for the Library system in the Anderson Allyn Room. GCPL partners with the Geauga County Genealogical Society to provide the service and collection. The Thompson Library Station in Ledgemont High School opened in 1979.
Gardens for reading and learning were introduced at some of the branches. In 1991, the Bainbridge Branch and the Chagrin Valley Herb Society formed a partnership so that an herb garden could be installed for learning and enjoyment. This garden has received regional recognition in herb and horticultural circles. The Friends of the Geauga West established a reading garden in the front of this branch in 2005 and in 2008, Middlefield received a READ Garden which was paid for in part by the East Geauga and Bookmobile Friends. Then in 2009, the East Geauga Friends of the Library donated a bronze sculpture that was installed at the entrance to the Middlefield Library.
The Library system experienced flat funding from the State throughout the late 1990s and into the new century, which led to a return to the polls for a replacement levy in 2007. Bainbridge and Geauga West received interior face-lifts thanks to an LSCA – Trading Spaces grant awarded in 2007. The projects were successfully completed in 2008. More cuts to State funding occurred in 2009, which led to cuts in library services and staff reduction in hours and layoffs. After gathering community input at public forums, a new continuing 1 mill levy was approved by the voters in 2010, which resulted in the restoration of library services and staffing in 2011. A capital project plan was put in place so the Library could begin to tackle a backlog of maintenance issues and projects, among them purchasing property in Bainbridge in 2013 in anticipation of providing much-needed space for the undersized Bainbridge Branch.
The library built its e-content collection by subscribing to various services to offer e-books, e-audiobooks, digital magazines, movies. television shows and comics and graphic novels. Staff members were trained to help teach patrons how to use this technology on their devices.
GCPL celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013 with a major system-wide marketing plan.
The Anderson Allyn Genealogy and Local History Room at the Chardon Branch were renovated in 2014 to accommodate new tools and collection formats used for research using a gift from the Allen estate donated to the GCPL Foundation.
Voters passed a bond issue in 2017 to renovate Chardon, Geauga West, and Middlefield as well as build new library branches in Bainbridge and Thompson. Planning began shortly thereafter and progress has been chronicled on the #GCPLBuilds web page.
Additionally, the library underwent strategic planning in 2018 and adopted the mission to “engage, connect and inspire.”