Driving Park Celebrates Grand Opening of new Library Branch
The atmosphere was festive on Saturday as the Columbus Metropolitan Library opened its newest building at the corner of Livingston and Kelton Avenues. The Columbus Saints Drum and Bugle Corps and stilt walkers from the Amazing Giants entertained the crowd as city and library officials arrived to commemorate the opening of the Driving Park Branch.
Patrick Losinski, CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, pointed out the distinctive glass windows that wrap around the new building’s exterior. Losinski said the building is meant to appear as inviting as possible in its dual purpose as a library and as a “community center where all things are possible.”
“Imagine what this building will be on a cold winter night,” said Losinski. “This glowing beacon that is going to inspire children and teens and adults to come in, to be able to experience the wonders of learning, the power of curiosity and the joys of discovery.”
Mayor Michael Coleman also delivered remarks at the grand opening, listing the new library branch among a number of other recent achievements for Columbus, including the rebuilding efforts in the Near East Side and the reopening of the Long Street Bridge and Cultural Wall.
“Here we are today to open this great library that will serve as a beacon of hope, a place where our young people can learn and expand their knowledge and have personal growth,” said Coleman “This is a wonderful time and a wonderful thing here in our community.”
Coleman told the crowd there is nothing more important than educating young people, an effort that Coleman said begins in the home and is carried on in libraries like the new Driving Park Branch.
“I go to libraries all over the central city in particular, and sometimes it is so crowded of young people trying to get to computers, to books, to experience and to grow,” said Coleman. “To see this new building right here in Driving Park makes me a proud mayor.”
The Driving Park Branch is the library’s first new building in a decade and marks the beginning of an effort to renovate or rebuild 10 libraries in the next few years. CML has also committed itself to making these new buildings environmentally friendly, aiming to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification by the US Green Building Council with each new branch. To that end, 88 percent of materials were recycled during the building of the Driving Park Branch by Turner Construction.
Ground broke on the new library less than a year ago and branch manager Mel Jones said he was in awe of how suddenly the building came together.
“You see it incrementally, day by day,” said Jones. “And then over a period of about a week and a half, it becomes a building. It becomes a usable space.”
Jones said members of the Driving Park community had been asking for a new building as the old branch, which was build in 1972, became too outdated and overcrowded to use. This new building will prove far more adaptable as technology advances, said Jones, and has already been outfitted with smart boards and video conferencing capabilities.
The community has also reacted positively to the new building, and Jones was pleased that so many people came to celebrate the grand opening.
“There was some concern that because of the economics in the neighborhood that the library would not bring its best to the forefront,” said Jones. “They had to actually see it. Once they saw that the library did not spare any expense, the technology is here, the opportunities are here, everything that we had available we put into this building.”
The new branch contains three meeting rooms, a teen area, a children’s area, a Ready for Kindergarten area, a homework help center and study rooms, and a special section for the Columbus State Community College. The library also features public Apple computers, free WiFi access and an Xbox One. The technology is what excited Jones the most about the new building.
“I’m a technology person,” said Jones. “I’m not good with it, but I love the things that it can do.”
Jones believes the technology of the Driving Park Branch will present opportunities that people have never before had access to in a public library.
“I want to see the first project that is created solely from this library that goes viral, that hits big,” said Jones. “I’m going to encourage every kid that comes in here to go for that.”
For more information, visit www.columbuslibrary.org.
All photos by Jesse Bethea.