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?

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The New Main

IMG_2365Yesterday Kish and I walked over to check out the refurbished Main Library branch of the Columbus Public Library system.  It reopened recently after being closed for about a year for renovations.

The renovations focused on the interior and rear of the building, where the second and third floors now feature two-story floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the Topiary Gardens Park behind the library.  The huge windows give the interior a much more airy and bright feel, and the library has maintained that feel by providing lots of seating areas, open spaces within the interior of the building, and less cluttered shelving.  As you walk through the building — and yesterday there was lots of traffic — you can’t help but be impressed by the spaciousness.

IMG_2370The renovations also included some landscaping of the front lawn leading up to the familiar facade of the original Carnegie library building, as well as adding some green space and a patio area between the rear of the building and the Topiary Gardens.  On a sunny day like yesterday, the towering windows and new green spaces made the library seem more integrated with its surroundings than ever before.

I think the new Main looks great, and I’m happy that it has reopened.  For all of the sleek changes to the interior and exterior, Main also has a great selection of books — one that is much larger than that available at the Parsons branch that we have been using.  Yesterday we picked up a few books after some browsing, which is one of the things I like to do at a library.  I’m glad Main is back in the rotation.

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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!