High Profile: A Library Advocate

”My gorilla suit comes out when you least expect it.”
"Of course there will be libraries in 20 years."
“Of course there will be libraries in 20 years.”

Photograph by Annette Navarro

A reference librarian—and de facto music librarian—at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s main branch, Steve Kemple is an advocate for what he believes is one of society’s most important communal spaces. In addition to adopting a cat left in the book depository, he spends his workdays conducting music events and donning a gorilla suit.

“Today, the library is an example of how the world can be better—it’s a public space where you can get things for free and be exposed to the world. It’s this thing that everybody shares. I’m just injecting some absurdism and bizarreness into that.”

“Last November, one of my coworkers came up to my desk and said, “Steve, we have a task for you.” And all of a sudden there was a kitten on my desk. Someone had dropped her off through the book drop at the drive-up window. In a moment of magical thinking, I named her Joan Didion.”

“I’m working with an advocacy group called EveryLibrary on a series of projects. One idea is to have library directors pick a nearby cultural institution and send them flowers. Another is for everybody in libraries to hug each time a space station passes over. Goofy things that are fleeting but create a sense of togetherness.”

“My gorilla suit comes out when you least expect it. Whenever it feels like the wrong time—that’s the right time. Sometimes people don’t even acknowledge it, which is my favorite response. I’m all about terror-slash-delight. That’s my jam.”

“Public space is so important. You can come to the library and make, read, or write stuff. Families have birthday parties in our meeting rooms—it’s awesome.”

“Of course there will be libraries in 20 years. Will there be more e-books, or will they be downloaded into our heads—who knows? But libraries aren’t just warehouses for books.”

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