This Ain't Your Grandmother's Library

The Columbus Metropolitan Library is consistently named one of the best in the country, and lately it’s only been getting better, with a major renovation and expansion of the main branch (just a few blocks away from CCAD) and several other rebuilds in the works at neighborhood branches.

Columbus Library as Illustrated by CCAD

Books aren’t the first thing you’ll see when you walk into the newly reopened Columbus main library. What you will see before you reach the stacks: light pouring in from above, art hung from the walls and the ceiling, wide open spaces that draw your gaze up and around. This library for the 21st century isn’t just about the books. It’s also about retreating from the busy world to contemplate, meeting friends and colleagues to share study time or build something together, having a latte and even doing a little shopping. Gone is the formidable, opaque, window-free exterior of old libraries built to protect precious collections of books. Here is the wide-open, glass encased meeting place for anyone and everyone.

When the Columbus library system started its process of assessing, renovating and rebuilding branches several years ago, patrons were asked to describe the library of their youth and the library of the future.

“For childhood, it was ‘books.’ For the future, it was ‘community,’ ” says Alison Circle, the library’s chief customer experience officer. “If you’ve got glass everywhere, you look around and you can see everyone and everything, not only within the library building, but outside. So now I have a sense of community. I can see you walk inside the atrium. Outside every meeting room there’s an iPad telling you who’s inside the meeting room, whether it’s Grange Insurance or the YWCA executive board or your local sewing club.”

Stop at Carnegie Cafe for coffee or a light lunch (yes, you can take it back to your table or seat in the library). Browse the library store for gifts for your bookworm friends (including literary-themed tea, T-shirts, candles, posters and greeting cards). Head to the back patio, which overlooks Topiary Park — it’s also worth a visit — and a stone sculpture by Virginia Overton that was removed from the library in the renovation.

Circle likes to say people can be “alone together” in the new library. For all the sense of community the building provides, it also offers ample room for solitude.

“There’s tons of space here to study. Our view out to the park is magnificent,” she says. “If you want space to contemplate, to work, to be around others, there you go.”


Apply for a Columbus Metropolitan Library card here.


The More You Know:

If you can’t find a book at the main branch, chances are you can have it transferred from another branch. You’ll get an email notification when the book is ready for pickup.

If you’re yearning for a good read outside library hours, visit the online catalog and browse for ebook editions, which can be lent and sent to your iPad, Kindle or other mobile device.

The online research page is amazing, too, with links to databases, archives, newspapers and many other reference sources.


Read more in our series CCAD & Columbus