Shootout At The OK Library

I got a disturbing email from the Columbus Metropolitan Library system this afternoon.  It wasn’t about fines, or overdue books, or anything like that.  Instead, it reported on a shooting that occurred at the Main Library yesterday afternoon.

columbus20main20library20shootingAccording to the Columbus Dispatch, there was a dispute between two guys in the study area on the second floor of the Main Library.  The second floor is a very nice space that is one of the recently refurbished areas that I reported on last summer.  The article reports that the two guys exchanged words, then one guy pulled out a gun and started shooting.  The other man was shot in the ankle and limped away, being chased by the shooter, until the shooter surrendered to library security.  He eventually was taken away by police.

A shooting, in a library?  How sad, and also disturbing, too.  Main Library is my nearby library branch of choice, because it has the greatest selection of books on the shelves, and I enjoy browsing and seeing whether anything strikes my fancy.  Main has always been a bit gritty, with more than its share of apparent homeless folks hanging around inside and outside, but a shooting?  That raises grittiness issues to a whole new level.

This is the kind of thing that many of us find unnerving about the prevalence of guns in our culture.  Two guys are sitting in a library, they start to argue, and suddenly things escalate out of control — and because one guy had a gun, he skipped the physical brawl step and just started shooting.  Weapons are barred in the library, but obviously that didn’t make a difference.  Fortunately, none of the other people who were in the library at the time got hit.  And I can’t help but think that, if Russell and Emily weren’t around, I might have been walking past the area where the confrontation occurred at the moment things spiraled into chaos.

I’ll continue to use Main — at least, I’m pretty sure I will — but I’m not going be able to enjoy the same kind of leisurely strolls through the shelves that I have enjoyed before.  I’ll keep a wary eye on everybody, and I’ll be looking to get in and out quickly.  Who knows whether that guy reading Sports Illustrated over there might be packing, and have a short fuse, to boot?

Advertisements

The New Parsons Branch

It was a big day today in the German Village/Schumacher Place/near East Side part of Columbus.  The new Parsons branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library opened.

The old Parsons branch was the smallest branch in the excellent Columbus system.  It was really more like a high school or junior high library than a public library branch, but it was the only library within walking distance when the Main Library closed for renovations, and Kish and I visited and used it extensively.  Then the old Parsons branch shut down, leaving us without a nearby library for an uncomfortable period of time for us regular library users, before the new branch opened a few blocks directly south of the old location.

IMG_1146The new branch is a big improvement — literally.  It’s much larger, inside and out, and my brief bit of perusing during our visit indicates that its collection is more extensive than that at the old branch, too.  That’s a welcome change indeed, because I like browsing and grabbing a book that strikes my fancy at the time, and I had just about worked through all of the selections in my preferred literary genres in the standing collection at the old branch.  With the additional book options available at the new location, I’ll be kept busy for a while.

I’m not sure that we’re going to keep using the Parsons Branch, however, when the Main Library renovations are done and Main reopens to the public in a few weeks.  With the shift of Parsons to the south, it’s almost certainly farther away from us than the Main Library.  When you add that fact to the far more extensive standing collection at Main, I suspect that my choice when I’m in the mood for some browsing will be to cross over the freeway and head to Main.

The new Parsons branch will be interesting to keep an eye on for another reason.  It’s part of the ongoing effort to improve Parsons Avenue, and with the move south it’s an attempt to nudge the redevelopment wave a few blocks farther away from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital zone.  The new neighborhood for the branch has a decidedly more gritty feel, but that may change as the new library and some other redevelopment efforts in the area come on line.  I’m sure that civic leaders are hoping that a new library can help the area feel more like a neighborhood and less like an urban renewal project.  Today, at least, the branch was jammed on its opening day.  It would be a good sign if that continues.

From Main To Parsons

A few days I got an email advising that the Main Library is going to be closing during its renovation after all.  So, I’ll need to bid farewell to the Main building, with its great historic features and interesting artwork, and find a new library branch.

IMG_4669The plan was to keep the original Main library building open while work proceeded on the newer building, but the email from the Columbus Metropolitan Library said that for “budget, safety, and scheduling reasons,” they will need to close the Main Library entirely effective April 13. According to a local TV station, library officials cited lower than expected usage since the partial closure and the cost of keeping the older building open during the construction project.  In my recent visits, I’ve noticed an apparent drop-off in patrons.

So, I need to find a new branch, and although the Main Library closure won’t take effect until April 13, there’s no time like the present.  The Columbus Metropolitan Library website has a helpful locations page that shows that the next nearest branch to us is on Parsons Avenue, to the east and south but well within walking distance — so that’s what I’ll start using.  Unfortunately, the information for the Parsons branch indicates that it is closed on Sunday, which is pretty inconvenient for us working stiffs who reserve Saturday for chores around the house and think Sunday is a great day for a library visit.  We’ll just have to adjust our thinking, and our schedules, until the Main Library comes back on-line.

One other thing about the closure of Main — it means I’ll be seeing a part of Columbus I really haven’t seen before.  I don’t think I’ve ever been on Parsons Avenue south of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and given the explosion of building in the Children’s Hospital area it will be interesting to see if the construction projects are changing the neighborhood where the Parsons branch is located.  If only it were open on Sunday!

Our New (Old) Library Branch

IMG_4671Kish and I are big users of the award-winning Columbus Metropolitan Library system.  Now that we have relocated to German Village, we obviously won’t be using the New Albany branch as we have been doing for years.  So, where to go?

It turns out that the venerable Main Library on Grant Avenue is one of the nearest branches of the CML.  It’s an easy walk from German Village and a terrific facility, so we’ve decided to adopt it as our new branch of choice.

The Main Library originally was called the Carnegie Library, and its original building was opened in 1907.  It’s a beautiful marble and granite structure with fantastic interior flourishes, including tiled hallways, stained glass skylights, soaring ceilings, and sweeping staircases.  There’s also a huge modern addition behind the original building that was added in 1991.  It doesn’t have the same architectural panache as the original — at least, not in my view — but it is huge and houses an enormous collection on three sprawling floors.  As a fan of the music CD options the CML offers, it’s nice to be able to browse a different assortment of jazz, classical, and rock options than was found in the New Albany branch and make a few impulse selections, as I did yesterday.

IMG_4667Our timing in beginning to use the Main Library is just about perfect, because the recent addition will be closing in less than two weeks for a major renovation — and, as one of the librarians explained yesterday, the library will somehow try to fit the staff and collection back into the original Carnegie building during the renovation period.  It will be good to see the initial building returned to its intended use again, although it will undoubtedly be a tight squeeze.

The renovation plans are impressive.  One of the main goals is to link the library to Columbus’ Topiary Park to the east by getting rid of an intervening parking lot and fence, landscaping the area, and adding an open deck that will function as a reading area.  It sounds like a terrific idea . . . and any proposal that replaces downtown surface parking lots with more green space has my enthusiastic support as a matter of course.  The east facade of the existing library building also will be replaced with glass, and the library will incorporate some new technology and new features in its children’s space.  All told, the renovation will cost $30.4 million and won’t be completed until summer 2016, which means we’ll get to become very familiar with the Carnegie building in the interim.

Using the Main Library is different from the New Albany branch — it’s far bigger, and the New Albany branch didn’t require the security guards that seem to be an inevitable part of any downtown building that is open to the public — but it has all of the features that make the Columbus Metropolitan Library system so excellent, including the ability to reserve books, CDs, and other parts of the library collection on-line.  Columbus’ Main Library is a treasure to be supported, and I’m glad that the community is investing in it.

IMG_4674

A Well-Funded Library

I’m happy to report that the levy for the Columbus Metropolitan Library passed on Tuesday, and by a wide margin.  This is good news for those of us who are big fans of the library and believe it makes a vital contribution to our communities.

It’s gratifying to know that, even in this time of tightened belts, Columbus area voters recognized the value of our library system and voted to support it with their tax dollars.

Vote Yes On Issue 4

In addition to all of the federal and state races on the ballot in November, central Ohio voters will cast their ballots on Issue 4, a 2.8 mill property tax levy to support the Columbus Metropolitan Library system.  I strongly support Issue 4, and I hope Franklin County voters will, too.

The Columbus Metropolitan Library system is exceptional.  It has won national awards for excellence and is devoted to community service.  Its local branch libraries have become fundamental parts of many central Ohio communities.  That is certainly the case in New Albany, where the library branch is one of the cornerstones of the Market Street area and is a hub for meetings of local groups.  It also contributes greatly to the foot traffic that helps the nearby local stores.

Libraries are one of the institutions that help to bring communities together and makes them feel more like, well, communities.  A vote for Issue 4 is a vote for money well spent.

Library Of The Year

I’ve written before about the Columbus Metropolitan Library, which I think is a terrific library system and a real asset to the community.  Others apparently agree, because the Library Journal has named the Columbus Metropolitan Library the 2010 Library of the Year.  It is a richly deserved honor — and well-timed, too, because an operating levy for the library will be on the ballot in November.  Here’s hoping that the Library of the Year award helps Columbus voters to recognize that our library system is a real jewel and to agree to provide the system with the support it needs to continue its fine work.