John G. White - Tours of Cleveland, LLC

John G. White

John G. White Special Collections

Inside Cleveland Public Library‘s downtown Main Building on the third floor is the John G .White Special Collections Department. It is one of the stops on our Cleveland From the Inside walking tour! It is full of rare books, chess sets from around the world, a collection of miniature books and even a brick from the Great Wall of China.

But who is John G. White? White served on the Board of Trustees for the Cleveland Public Library (CPL), first from 1884 -1886. He would be instrumental in hiring William Brett as the second head librarian. He would later serve on the Board again beginning in 1910 where he would help oversee two campaigns to raise money to help build a permanent home for the CPL. Finally on October 23, 1923, White would preside over the laying of the cornerstone of the Main Building.

Because it was not legal to use public funds to buy rare books for the library’s collection, much of it was donated by John G. White himself. He was an avid reader and purchased over 100,000 books! He was not concerned about having a “pretty” collection but a “complete” collection! Today, we, the citizens of Cleveland still can benefit from his work. Currently there is a special exhibit on the third floor about White.

Check out the Special Collections Room and other parts of the Cleveland Public Library along with many other fascinating buildings in Cleveland on our Cleveland From the Inside walking tour. Book your tour at

Laying of the cornerstone in 1923
Special Collections Room at the CPL