Books are on the shelves and a few customers have tried to trickle through the doors a little too early, but the newest and largest branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library is scheduled to open at 4 p.m. Thursday, June 21, in Hilliard.

Construction of the 2-story, 63,000-square-foot facility at 4500 Hickory Chase Way began last summer at the 6.8-acre site, a mixed-use development that already includes several new apartment buildings on 86 acres south of Davidson Road and east of Leap Road.

"The largest branch in our system, (the Hilliard branch) represents a major investment in this rapidly growing community," said Patrick Losinski, CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

The system's main library on Grant Avenue in downtown Columbus is larger than any of the system's other 22 locations but is not considered a branch, said Ben Zenitsky, a spokesman for the library system.

"This new 21st-century library was made possible by our tremendous partnership with Hilliard and its residents' overwhelming support for our library levy in 2010," Losinski said.

The Hilliard library is the eighth branch that has been renovated, expanded or rebuilt as part of CML's $132 million "aspirational building program" that began in 2014, Zenitsky said.

Two more renovations are in the works.

The new Martin Luther King branch on Long Street in Columbus is expected to open later this year, and the new Dublin branch will open next year.

Losinski, Hilliard City Schools Superintendent John Marschhausen, state Reps. Jim Hughes (R-Columbus) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and other officials are scheduled to speak at 3:30 p.m. in advance of a ribbon-cutting scheduled for 4 p.m.

A two-hour open house will be held from 4 to 6 p.m., and the library will remain open until 9 p.m., Zenitsky said.

Regular hours of operation will begin Friday, June 22. Those hours are 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays.

Special open-house events include a juggling show, stilt-walkers, a turtle exhibit and the issuing of commemorative library cards.

Robin Nesbitt, manager of the Hilliard branch since 2013, will transition to the new branch from the former library at 4772 Cemetery Road. That branch closed June 6.

The library system will sell the Cemetery Road property, Zenitsky said, after the city of Hilliard declined a $3.5 million purchase offer.

That branch opened 1996 after moving from the southeast corner of Scioto Darby Road and Veterans Memorial Drive, a building now occupied by Sunrise Academy.

The new branch is triple the size of the 20,000-square-foot branch on Cemetery Road and offers numerous new amenities, Nesbitt said.

They include Kerr's Cafe, operated by Public Perk, a union of three local business owners, Coffee Connections, 4004 Main St., and the Coffee Mess and Lil' Donut Factory, 4543 Scioto Darby Road.

The new branch features a larger Homework Help Center, a new "Ready for Kindergarten" area where preschoolers and their families can prepare for starting kindergarten and an interactive children's area with more space and programming, Zenitsky said.

Unique to the Hilliard branch is a naturally lit reading room that was modified from what was intended to be a swimming pool at Hickory Chase, a failed luxury community for senior citizens that was being developed by Baltimore-based Erickson Communities until it filed for bankruptcy in April 2009.

The building that became the library was intended to be the clubhouse.

California-based Greenwich Investors purchased the land a few years later and the city of Hilliard, in turn, bought 6.8 acres for $6 million and gave it to the library.

The library system then purchased the nearly completed clubhouse for $800,000 and last year began remodeling it, Zenitsky said.

"We are so excited to welcome the Hilliard community to come discover and explore everything this dynamic new space has to offer," Losinski said.

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