Googly eyes are everywhere at Play Library, the new nonprofit on Elm Street in Over-the-Rhine. That’s not just because they are conspicuously placed throughout the space—it’s also what happens to the faces of kids and adults alike when they see the toys, both new and vintage, all over the shelves.
Most things can be checked out, just like a book. It’s an innovative concept, as is Play Library’s mission: to connect families and communities in the greater Cincinnati area through play. “Playing brings people together in a way that I don’t think anything else does,” says owner Julia Fischer, a former toy designer.
Unlike your usual kid-friendly hangout, this place doesn’t encourage using the free WiFi, and there are no magazines lying around to distract. (There are, thankfully, coffee and snacks available for as little as a dollar.) What some might see as an oversight is actually by design—Fischer wants you to take a seat on the bean bags that look like tree stumps and play. “We were very intentional about having things for every age,” Fischer says. “There’s so much research about how playing games helps ward off diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
Play Library is as much a space for adults as it is kids. Inside, there’s a mini-museum dedicated to toys. Large swings hang in the storefront window. Play Library holds networking events where adults can drink a beer, play a game like Clue or Cards Against Humanity, and maybe meet someone new. “[At Play Library], we often get a group of strangers together who suddenly have a connection over a game.”
And at its core, that is Play Library’s mission: connection. “I own Play Library, but I don’t want to,” Fischer says. “I want the community to own it.”
Play Library, 1517 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 407-7045, playlibrary.org