More than 300 people gathered Sept. 2 for the opening of the Pickerington Public Library's new branch on Refugee Road.

Despite cool temperatures and rain, the opening of the Sycamore Plaza Library Branch drew a large turnout that included performances from members of the Pickerington High School North marching Panthers band.

It was the first opportunity for the public to see the new branch at 7861 Refugee Road, and library officials said it marks the beginning of enhanced services to a greater segment of the Pickerington and Violet Township communities.

"I hope when you walk through that you'll see that we are working really hard to meet the needs of the community," said Tony Howard, library director.

The library signed a five-year lease in December for the approximately 4,200-square-foot space that houses the new library branch. Under the agreement, the library will pay approximately $35,000 per year for the space for the first two years, and $52,500 for the final three years.

The branch is being funded through a $1.23 million donation the library received in 2013 from the estate of Mary Blauser Meilwes.

Although it's roughly one-fifth the size of the 25,000-square-foot main library at 201 Opportunity Way, the new branch is expected to maintain a collection of 6,000 items and provide more convenient services to residents on the community's north side.

It features 24-hour pickup lockers to allow patrons around-the-clock checkout and return services, free wireless and a range of services, including reference and information, a homework help center and activities programming.

"I want to thank everyone who took part in this long process, from conception to completion," said Cristie Hammond, president of the Pickerington Public Library board of trustees.

"Libraries today are more than just books," she said. "They're videos, they're DVDs, they're comics, they're everything you can possibly imagine.

"When you go inside here today, I think you're going to find a wonderful opportunity to explore everything we have to offer."

The new branch will operate from noon to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from noon to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. It will be closed Sundays.

Among those who toured the new facility Sept. 2 were Jim and Ann Polack of Akron, who were in town visiting a relative who works for the library.

"I love the location and I'm really impressed with the children's section," Ann Polack said. "It's huge.

"We're very excited."

As her 12-year-old daughter, Jenascia, prepared to reserve books from the new branch, Jennifer Carley of Pickerington said the library's second location should bring better convenience to her family.

"We have gone to the (main library), but we live right next to Violet Elementary (school)," Jennifer Carley said. "This is just two minutes down the street.

"I think with it being new, they have a lot of services and options," she said. "They have a lot of books that are on hold at the other library."

Library Community Relations Coordinator Colleen Bauman said about 340 people attended the grand opening. She said 18 library cards were provided to patrons and 407 items were checked out during the event.

Additional information about the Sycamore Plaza Library Branch can be found at pickeringtonlibrary.org.

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