Westerville Public Library
Renovations target 'community' feel
Changes are springing up at the Westerville Public Library, as the facility undergoes a series of renovations made possible by the levy passed in November 2011.
Changes already are evident in the children's area, where life-sized trees have been placed among the bookshelves, along with a school bus and police car that children can play on.
"Right now, (the children's area) is really like a little adult area," said library Executive Director Don Barlow. "We wanted to make it more interactive for early childhood development."
The library team was inspired by Westervillage, the interactive, town-like play space in the Westerville City School District's Early Learning Center.
The theme will carry over into the children's area's Activity Center, which will be expanded by 30 percent to accommodate growth in activity attendance, Barlow said.
The room will include a mural painted to look like a city street, along with a play fire truck. The space also will be opened up with a larger, glass door.
Furniture in the teen room, which was renovated in 2006, is showing wear, Barlow said, and the library plans to replace the large booths with long counters and stools, giving the area an "internet cafe" feel.
The current computer lab will become the new Homework Help Center. The center, which now is in a small nook, serves between 10 and 20 children per day, and Barlow said library officials expect that number to increase as the school district works to meet the state's third-grade reading guarantee.
The adult services section won't be left out of the renovations either.
The Tech Center already has been renovated, with large glass windows replacing previous walls. Through the library's leasing program, the computers in the center also were recently replaced.
Outside the tech center, electrical outlets and USB connections will be added to every table. Large televisions will be added to the group study rooms, with the goal of allowing local businesses to Skype or host webinars, and allowing library staff to hold eBook training sessions, Barlow said.
All of the renovations are designed to make the library more user- and community-friendly, Barlow said.
"We really want to give a more community place (feel) rather than just the library," Barlow said. "(The library) is more than just the books; it's how you deliver it."
The renovations also will come with an overhaul of some of the library's aging HVAC system.
So much is being done at once, Barlow said, because thanks to the the levy, the library is catching up on capital-improvement projects that were put on hold while the library dealt with a money crunch because of losses in state funding.
The renovations also will help the library serve a growing user base.
The library saw more than a 13-percent increase in use last year, and use already is up 9 percent this year. With the renovations, Barlow said, library use likely will increase more this year than last.
The library checked out 2.3 million items last year, making it the fourth busiest library in the state, behind Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland; though Barlow pointed out that Cleveland's library system was only ahead of Westerville's by about 100,000 items.
With the renovations, the library continues to look at further changes, such as more programs, more access to electronic resources and other library systems and someday, hopefully, more parking.
"We're always looking at something new," Barlow said.