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Why the Cincinnati library wants your old high school yearbook

Glen Este High School 1971 yearbook photo
Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library
A page from the Glen Este High School 1971 yearbook, digitized for the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library collection.

Local librarians want to preserve a bit of history you might prefer to keep buried in the basement — your high school yearbook. The Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library is trying to expand its yearbook collection, which already includes 3,000 items.

Larry Richmond, department manager of genealogy and local history at the Downtown location, says the yearbook collection is really popular.

“If you think about doing research on an ancestor, the idea of having a photo is sort of the Holy Grail, right? Lots of people have done genealogy research and never seen a picture of an ancestor,” Richmond said. “So the idea that we can go back so far in Cincinnati history and have a photo of someone's relative is a pretty big deal.”

The collection has been growing for decades, but Richmond says a recent grant from the State Library of Ohio prompted this new push for donations. The grant funded a new book scanner, and now 1,200 of the yearbooks are available online.

“Since they are donated, you know, these aren't new yearbooks that we get, it's always interesting to see what's written in them,” Richmond said. “So there's signatures and well wishes and everything you'd imagine in a yearbook.”

Richmond says they want to represent as many schools as they can. The list of schools and years they’re looking for spans more than a century, from Academy of the Sacred Heart in 1869 to Withrow High School in 2021.

If you don’t have a yearbook to donate, Richmond says you can contact your alma mater and ask them to donate extra copies. Some schools need to give permission for a digital version to be shared online, especially for the more recent years.

If you have a book to add to the collection, contact the library at cinlib.org/yearbookcontact.

The main library is displaying a "Glory Days" exhibit with yearbooks and memorabilia from local high schools. You can see the exhibit in person in the Cincinnati Room or explore online.

Expertise: Local politics, housing policy