Whitehall News

Undetermined location

New Whitehall branch to open in spring 2014

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The size of the Whitehall branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library will nearly triple in size when a new branch opens in spring 2014.

That is the target date for the completion and opening of a new $7.5 million, 19,500-square-foot Whitehall branch.

The location is yet to be finalized, but it won't be built in the same spot as the existing 7,400-square-foot branch at 4371 E. Broad St.

Kerry Bierman, director of the 2020 Vision Plan for the library, said library administrators have narrowed possible sites and all are within Whitehall's city limits.

"We have no official site (for the new library) yet. We hope to make an official announcement by the end of June," Bierman said.

The site will be presented to library board of trustees for final approval.

The existing Whitehall branch, at East Broad Street and South Yearling Road, opened in 1959. It was renovated in 1982, and an addition was built in 1993. However, that addition led to inadequate parking, and that was one of the criteria used in selecting the Whitehall branch as part of the library's 2020 Vision Plan.

In 2008, the library launched its plan as a master plan of sorts for all 20 of its branches for the ensuing decade.

"It's a study of every branch to determine how we can best serve each community," Bierman said, adding that with the passage of a 2.8-mill levy in November 2010, plans were able to move forward.

The first branches slated for improve- ment are the Whitehall and Driving Park branches.

"(The Whitehall branch) is landlocked and has a small parking lot. It can get crowded there," Bierman said about the decision to reconstruct the Whitehall branch.

Library administrators also considered test scores the Ohio Department of Education administers to students at Whitehall City Schools. Among these are the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment and Literacy that the library uses as one barometer to determine allocation of resources.

"Circulation is not the only factor we consider," said Wendy Tressler, the library's director of innovation. "We also look at the number of visitors and users for other services, such as homework help centers,"

The Whitehall branch is among the smallest of the library's branches but will become among the largest after the new one is built.

Five sites are under consideration, but administrators will wait until a selection is approved to make an announcement.

"The current location is at a high-visibility area, and we are striving to find an equally visible site," said Steve Prater, the library's director of property management.

The library already has selected Jonathan Barnes Architecture & Design to engineer the new Whitehall branch. After a plan and site are approved, the library will seek bids for construction of the facility, Prater said.

"The current branch will remain open while the new one is built; then the old facility will be sold," Prater said.

The new construction and relocation project is the first for the library since 2004, when a new Linden branch on Cleveland Avenue was built.

The project for the Driving Park branch, 1566 E. Livingston Ave., will advance in an identical manner. A new 15,000-square-foot library will be built to replace a 6,000-square-foot library, the smallest of all the library's branches.

NBBJ is the architectural firm for the Driving Park location. The project has a $6 million budget.

Both projects are on the same timetable and are part of a "systemic approach to refurbishing our facilities into the libraries of the future," Bierman said.

Both facilities will be LEED-certified. An acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the certification from the U.S. Green Building Council is reserved for structures that meet energy-efficiency standards.

Library administrators are focused equally on ensuring the facilities meet their goal of serving the public.

"We want our libraries as a place to connect people, share resources and inspire reading," Bierman said.

The Whitehall branch will include additional amenities with the help of a $750,000 endowment from the estate of a former librarian.

Carole Snowden, who died in 2008, had been a library employee for more than 30 years.

"It's a spectacular gift," Bierman said, specifically directed to provide services for children and youth.

The gift will be used to enhance programs for children such as the library's Ready to Read programs and special events for children.

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