Central Ohio IFMA Chapter Members Tour Newly Renovated Main Library Branch

     On a cold, early morning in January, the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s main branch was already alive and bustling.

     A stage and chairs were being set up on the second floor in preparation for a large gathering; patrons were lining up inside at the entrance to the Grand Atrium waiting for admittance; and a group of Central Ohio IFMA Chapter members were wrapping up an hour-long tour.

     Even at 9 a.m., the Main Library is the place “to be” – and that’s exactly what designers were hoping for.

     Some seven months after its grand-reopening, the Main Library still dazzles the eye and calms the senses. The $35 million renovation project took more than a year to complete, but project manager Fred Brock is still tickled by the oohs and aahs that accompany each tour. On the morning of January 17, 2017, it was some two dozen Central Ohio IFMA members that came to see what all the buzz was about.

     Central Ohio IFMA Chapter members began their tour in one of the facility’s many meeting rooms where they heard from Peter Kleinhenz and Gregory Raffio, engineers from Go Sustainable Energy which promotes sustainable material and energy use through a number of different services. While the Main Library is not LEED certified (a certification library officials chose not to pursue), planners and designers conscientiously chose to make the renovations energy-efficient which was a challenge at times while melding old and new into one grand facility.

     “It was kind of a unique project,” said Kleinhenz. “This is an old building with old systems, and (CML) renovated it so there are new systems tying into old systems. So you can see how that could get really complicated. But at the same time, it gave (CML) some opportunities to make some energy efficient upgrades.”

     While the square footage of the Main Library and its collection of books and periodicals remains the same, space has been repurposed and transformed into a community gathering place serving both educational and civic needs. Areas were opened up to allow for more natural light, and tall windows installed to give new, uninterrupted views of the Topiary Garden in the rear of the library. What was once dark is now bright and newly polished. The new Grand Atrium welcomes patrons with breathtaking ceilings and an expansive view of the entire library, all immersed in sustainable light.

     “There’s LED lighting throughout the entire facility, exterior and interior,” Kleinhenz explained. “And there are lots of nice, upgraded windows throughout the building, taking advantage of the natural light.

   “Photo sensors were also installed on a lot of the different light fixtures so they dim when there’s enough light coming from the outside.”

     The difference in the newly renovated Main Branch is illuminating – a long way from its beginnings before the light bulb was even invented.

     The current facility is steeped in history. The original library opened its doors in 1873 in the New City Hall in downtown Columbus. The structure served its purpose for the next 20 years before outgrowing its space due to increased demand.

     In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American industrialist, granted funding to almost 2,000 communities across the United States in order to establish public libraries. With this, he envisioned a system where communities would continue to support and maintain their libraries long after the original gift was gone.

     Carnegie granted Columbus $200,000 to build a new library, and by 1907, the new, grand structure on South Grant Avenue was open for business. Built with white Vermont marble on a gray granite base, the library stood in all its majesty for patrons looking for a good read.

     Inside its three floors, books were housed, concerts and lectures were held, and art displayed for everyone to enjoy.

     In the 1950s and the 1960s, two more additions were built in response to the library’s ever-growing demands.

     And by the 1990s, library officials knew it was time to expand yet again. But this time, they worked hard to meld the old and the new, creating an award-winning space and resource system that has been recognized as one of the nation’s best libraries more than ten years standing.

     But on June 25, 2016, after more than a year of renovation during which the branch was closed, the Main Library celebrated with thousands as it marked some of the grandest renovations to date.

     After entering the new Grand Atrium where a new staircase was built to retrofit Columbus artist Aminah Robinson’s “Life in the Blackberry Patch” (which decorated the library’s old staircase), patrons are greeted with the newly renovated Children’s area. With new seating, technology tables, a fun Columbus yellow school bus, and an inviting story circle, the youngster’s area is lighter and more inviting than ever. The first floor is also home to a new full-service café and eating area (aptly named after its founding donor) and a glass-encased gift shop hosted by Friends of the Library. An auditorium, meeting spaces, and a homework help center round out the ground floor.

     The second floor boasts of the adult and teen sections, a reading room, a Learning Lab, periodicals, music, movies, study rooms, and the Carnegie Gallery – home to numerous local art exhibits.

     The third floor houses the Main Branch’s reference section, history and genealogy collections, a digital lab, non-fiction collections, and additional meeting rooms.

     The CML was led by nine guiding principles during design and construction: transparency (views), flexibility, iconic design, sustainability, technology, innovative programming, customer experience, young minds, and showcasing the collection.

     During construction, more than 600 workers put in some 150,000 man-hours on the renovation of Main Library. During demolition, 1,074 tons of concrete were removed; 1,444 tons of trash were landfilled; and 2,540 tons of total material were taken away. Of all the material removed, 43 percent of it was recycled or diverted material.

     More impressive renovation stats:



  • 197,000 square feet of new flooring was installed
  • 112 new doors were installed
  • 186,725 square feet of drywall was installed
  • 171,600 square feet of acoustic ceiling was installed
  • 2,800 square feet of wood ceiling was installed
  • 5,400 linear feet of new walls were installed
  • 5,150 linear feet of new soffits were installed
  • 55 toilets, 15 urinals and 25 sinks were installed
  • 882 glass lights were installed (LED)
  • 5,000 square feet of interior glass was installed
  • Over 1,000 gallons of paint was used
  • 1,103 new light fixtures were installed covering 5,611 linear feet




  • 9,000+ square yards of grading were completed
  • 100 tons of utility bedding/stone backfill were installed
  • 19,800 square feet of exterior glazing/skylights were installed
  • 6,000 square feet of metal panels were installed
  • 420 cubic feet of stone was used


Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP):

  • 154 new plumbing fixtures were installed
  • 3 water heaters were installed
  • 37 new floor drains were installed
  • 5,800 feet of drain piping were installed
  • 19,000 feet of new copper piping was installed
  • 1,530 new fresh air heating and cooling devices were installed
  • 98,303 pounds of new ductwork was installed
  • 58 new refrigerator cooling systems were installed
  • 128 new heating units were installed
  • 1,307 new sprinkler heads were installed
  • Nearly 7 miles of new plumbing, HVAC and sprinkler piping were installed


     Outside in the Old Deaf School Park’s Topiary Garden, a new sculpture features old marble from the library’s renovation – a testament to the fact that the library continues to be a “cornerstone of our community that inspires reading and connects people.”