Since 1907, the inscription above our stately Main Library has proclaimed a core value: “Open to All.” The newly renovated library, with its broad vistas, open floor plan and walls of windows is indeed open to all and intended to bring people together. After a 16 month long $35 million dollar renovation, the grand opening ceremony took place on June 25. Columbus dignitaries, Library Board members and hundreds of Columbus library users, both young and old gathered on the updated Carnegie Plaza, anxious to visit their new library. The building inspires in a myriad of new ways. The new Main Library has a seamless connection to Topiary Park, a reimagined Children’s Area, more meeting and study rooms, a new Reading Room and great views of the vibrant downtown neighborhood throughout.
The new light filled Grand Atrium still features the beloved Aminah Robinson mural reinstalled on the main staircase, a staircase that now leads to a new two-story Reading Room on the second floor with windows sweeping across the east facade. Flooring was removed in four areas to create volume and space. Glass is used liberally to connect library visitors to the activity inside the library and to offer beautiful vistas of the Columbus downtown skyline, Discovery District and greenspace in Topiary Park.
Main Library’s new design also incorporates a welcoming, light-filled entrance directly from Topiary Park. While many have long thought of Topiary Park as the library’s “back yard,” access and views of the park from Main Library were blocked. No longer: a new plaza, complete with benches, shaded tables and chairs and a performance area now create a literary gateway between the library and the park. A one-of-a-kind destination, Topiary Park was dedicated in 1992 and includes seven acres of manicured gardens depicting Georges Seurat’s Post-Impressionist painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte. PBJ & Jazz family concerts, sponsored in part by Friends of the Library, are held monthly here on summer Saturdays after library story time.
Just off the Grand Atrium a reimagined Children’s Area exemplifies one of the library’s top strategies: Young Minds. The previous Children’s Area was tucked away to separate children from the main areas and to keep the library quiet. Today’s library connects kids and all library customers, encouraging learning and growth, in order to build a foundation for a successful life. Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Young Minds strategy focuses on three learning milestones: Kindergarten Readiness, Third Grade Reading Proficiency and High School Graduation.
The Kindergarten Readiness Area recreates a kindergarten classroom. Because many Columbus children ride a bus to school, the space includes a school bus for preschoolers and their parents to experience together. An interactive whiteboard with learning apps, a magnetic word wall and educational toys that assist with motor skills and cognitive development might be found in a child’s first classroom. Books are organized in bins featuring the alphabet to assist with a fundamental literacy skill of letter recognition.
Another Young Minds initiative around Third Grade Reading originated to help kids pass the third grade reading test required by the State of Ohio. The Reading Buddies program pairs young students with an older buddy, who read together to practice the skills necessary to pass the test and advance to the fourth grade. The area is full of comfortable seating to facilitate this activity—and of course lots of books!
Teens and high school students are invited to connect with the library in a variety of ways. The Homework Help Center, accessible through the Carnegie side of the library is adorned with the words, “To and Through College” and college pennants decorate the walls. Teens now have their own area on the second floor, separate from the Children’s Area and outfitted with the latest technologies. Through the SURGE network, teens can connect with other local institutions in the space, including the Columbus Museum of Art, COSI, TransitArts and Wexner Center for the Arts.
Columbus Metropolitan Library has worked to connect the community by tripling the number of meeting rooms and adding four additional study spaces. Meeting rooms have glass walls, opening the spaces into the library, and the names of organizations utilizing these rooms are displayed on a digital tablet outside the room. Users of the library can see their neighbors and friends involving themselves in the work of the community.
In the first 30 days since opening, Main Library has had nearly 80,000 visits, a 21% increase over the average daily visits in June 2014. There have been 9,000 visits to the new walkways between the Carnegie building and the second floor of the 1991 addition, 14,000 visits to the Local History and Genealogy area and 40,000 visits to the Children’s area. The staff issued over 4,000 new library cards at Main Library, a 300% increase over the same time frame in 2014. Over 70,000 items have been checked out and customers have logged almost 13,000 public computer sessions. Customers have come from over 200 different registered zip codes, and at the two survey kiosks stationed at Main Library’s entryways, over 1,200 customers completed the online survey with 88% of them expressing happiness with their visits.
300% more library cards
Columbus Metropolitan Library is truly a gem in our city, connecting library users with a unique and spectacular space, state of the art technology, interactive Discovery Boards, kid’s areas, teen facilities, local history and genealogy resources, a café and a library store. And, yes, over 300,000 books, DVDs, CDs, magazines, newspapers and other items for circulation and research purposes. The newly reopened Main Library shows off its commitment not only to the library’s collection, but also to innovative ways of encouraging connection within our community.
New Main Library was big news! Here are links to some of the coverage:
Main Library ready to show off its $35 million renovation
The Columbus Dispatch, June 19, 2016
Light and Air: The New Columbus Metropolitan Library
WOSU, June 20, 2016
PHOTO TOUR: $35M main library renovation ready for debut, with new views of downtown Columbus
Business First, June 20, 2016
A new day for the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s flagship branch
Columbus Monthly, June 2016
Joe Blundo commentary: Renovation gives library feeling of openness
The Columbus Dispatch, July 17, 2016