Patrons of the new Whitehall branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 4445 E. Broad St., demonstrated their eagerness Saturday, April 11, by lining up two hours before the start of a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Patrons of the new Whitehall branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 4445 E. Broad St., demonstrated their eagerness Saturday, April 11, by lining up two hours before the start of a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"We have people knocking on the doors (before it opened)," said Gregg Dodd, director of marketing for the library system.

"We are thrilled at the amount of community support we have received. This community deserves a centerpiece and can be proud of this new library," Dodd said as hundreds of patrons explored the 20,000-square-foot Whitehall branch for the first time.

In a speech before the opening April 11, Mayor Kim Maggard called it "an exciting and historical day" in Whitehall and said the library is an amenity well-deserved by residents.

The $8.5 million library is almost triple the size of the library it replaced, a 7,500-square-foot building that opened in 1959 at 4371 E. Broad St., immediately west of the new library.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new library was held Sept. 10, 2013; its completion took longer than expected because of harsh weather conditions during the construction period.

"We don't think it was a coincidence," said Susan Snowden. She traveled with her sister, Nancy Snowden, from the Chicago area to represent their late sister, Carol Snowden, who bequeathed $750,000 to the library to build a children's area.

Carol Snowden was a librarian in the children's area of the Whitehall branch for 30 years. She died in January 2008 at age 57.

Susan Snowden said April 14 was Carol's birthday, and there could be no better birthday present than to be able to share with the community the new children's room that bears Carol's name.

"(Carol) wanted the future to be better than the past, and the Whitehall library always had a special place in her heart," said Susan Snowden, adding family members had discussed with Carol, after she declared her gift, how the library might appear.

"I think it is everything she imagined and more," Nancy Snowden said.

Pat Losinski, chief executive officer of the library system, called the branch "the next-generation library."

While future new branches in the system likely will have many of the same amenities, luxuries such as an interior gas fireplace and drive-up window for collecting reserved materials are, for now, found only in Whitehall.

The latter amenity is precisely what attracted East Columbus resident Kathi Bennett, 69, to the grand opening.

Bennett said she had stopped visiting the library because it became inconvenient after she began using a wheelchair. She renewed her library card April 11 and said Whitehall's drive-up window will make it much easier to pick up and return materials.

"This is a fantastic new library and I'm looking forward to being able to use it more," Bennett said.

Also enjoying the library April 11 were Whitehall resident Shelly Norman and her grandchildren, Savannah Barnette, 13, and Chase Tackett, 9.

"I love the updated technology and all the places kids can hang out," said Savannah, a student at Rosemore Middle School.

Chase said he also enjoyed the available technology, including computers, and the wider selection of books and other materials.

Bexley resident Andrew Blank said his family visited the Whitehall branch about two or three times a month and lauded the new technology available and the natural light and spaciousness of the new library.

Shirley Freeman, manager of the Whitehall branch since 2009 and a 32-year employee of the library system, said it has been a unique and exciting experience to oversee the transition from the old branch to the new one.

Aside from all the new amenities and technology, Freeman said she hopes the design, too, will further attract patrons, especially children, to the library.

"There are so many places here conducive for children to read and explore," Freeman said. "We have created a true learning environment."

The former library, at the corner of East Broad Street and South Yearling Road, will remain operable as a temporary site for the system's local history and genealogy division during the renovation of the Main Library in downtown Columbus.

Once that renovation is finished -- expected in summer 2016 -- the division will relocate back to the Main Library and the former Whitehall branch will be placed for sale.