Most years have been good years for the Columbus Metropolitan Library, with usage records being broken on a regular basis.
But 2016 is shaping up to be a year unlike any other.
There are 12 buildings either being renovated or built within the system, chief among them the crown jewel: The Main Library at 96 S. Grant Avenue.
And this summer, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions will hold its international convention here—drawing an estimated 5,000 attendees from 120 countries. Columbus beat out cities like Seattle and Washington, D.C., to earn the right to host the conference – which library CEO Patrick Losinski likens to the “United Nations of libraries.”
The investment in the physical spaces, coupled with the international attention the conference will bring to the community, led The Columbus Foundation to name the library system one of the community’s “5 Nonprofits to Watch” in 2016.
“The Columbus Foundation is recognizing that it is a unique time in the history of our library,” Losinski said. “We’re doing something very special – I don’t know that it’s been done to this extent since the 1980s. To be working on 12 new buildings simultaneously, including the renovation of the main library is monumental. To have it called out by The Columbus Foundation is special because they recognize we are having dramatic impact on the neighborhoods where these are located.”
“The profound impact the libraries are having on our communities cannot be overstated,” said Douglas F. Kridler, president and CEO of The Columbus Foundation. “We’re watching our neighborhoods be revitalized through the libraries. No longer are the buildings warehouses for books; they now have become community gathering spaces.”
Lisa S. Courtice, Ph.D., the Foundation’s executive vice president, said Foundation staff were impressed with how bold leaders have been in adopting innovative approaches and architecture.
Losinski explained the new philosophical and physical approach this way: “When you look at the designs of the completed new buildings, in Whitehall and Driving Park, these aren’t the kind of libraries many people grew up with. The new buildings moved from book vaults that had just a couple of windows to buildings that celebrate people. The old buildings were built for books, but the new ones are built so they are a great library space and a great civic space.
“We want kids to say this is a great building, I want to hang out in this building, and while they’re here, we’ll get them prepared for success in life,” Losinski said.
What the library has undertaken from a physical improvement standpoint borders on the unimaginable.
There are a dozen construction projects underway. Two of them are express libraries, built in “moth-balled schools” in Canal Winchester and the Marion-Franklin neighborhood. Three buildings are being renovated, including a $30 million investment in the Main Library. And seven buildings are being replaced with new structures. All told, the library is investing more than $131.5 million—$110 million through bonds and $21.5 million in private donations—in new facilities and improved technology.
Rendering of the new Main Library, Courtesy of Columbus Metropolitan Library
Losinski expects the new and renovated buildings will increase usage – usage that was 5.5 million visits last year.
“We have great usage, but we also have missionary zeal, and we’re always trying to attract more people to our wide-ranging services.”