The city’s celebrated library system is investing $120 million in brick-and-mortar libraries when ebook sales are rising. How will they keep us engaged and interested?
It’s a digital age, and the Columbus Metropolitan Library has embraced it with an extensive collection of electronic books, audio books, movies and music available online. Still, the 21-branch library system is investing $120 million in its infrastructure, rebuilding seven branches and renovating and expanding three others by 2020. New designs and new technology will bring these libraries into the 21st century. Here’s how.
Libraries have historically been built with collections in mind, says library CEO Pat Losinski. “That meant oftentimes there was a minimalist approach to outside glass, protecting the collections from sunlight,” he says. “Now, the approach is the building has to highlight the content, being the people inside.”
The Driving Park branch, expected to open this summer, was designed with an emphasis on natural lighting.
“What we really want to focus on are personal connections,” says chief customer experience officer Alison Circle. Library staff will help children prepare for kindergarten in a mock classroom, meet third-grade reading standards through a childhood literacy program and complete schoolwork in a homework help center.
“The meeting rooms in our current branches are about the size of a modest office,” Circle says. The Driving Park branch will have three meeting spaces that combined will seat about 200 people and include interactive technology. “It’s something at a level that neighborhood hasn’t seen before.”
Losinski says Columbus State Community College is considering offering classes in the new libraries.
The new Whitehall branch, expected to open late this year or early 2015, will feature a drive-thru window patrons can use to pick up and drop off materials.
“We’ll continue to have books on display but also integrate technology in ways that help us deliver a better service,” Circle says. Tablets, for example, will allow patrons to search for materials. A new self-checkout service will ease the demand on librarians to check out materials, “so staff is really available to engage customers to find out what they need, not necessarily behind a desk,” Losinski says.
“We are moving toward LEED certification for sustainability,” Losinski says. He says they also plan to use the new buildings as teaching instruments to “share ideas around conservation and sustainability.”