Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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Dazzling renovation helps increase Main Library usage

The spectacular renovations of Toledo's Main Library have transformed it from a place people might wander into if they happen to be downtown to a place that brings them downtown.

At least that is the theory of the people who have overseen the revamping of the 62-year-old building and the addition of a wing. “First of all, a lot of people have not been to the Main Library,” said Jeannine Wilbarger, the library's manager of circulation services. “They'll say that they haven't been here since they were kids. It's a destination now.”

Ms. Wilbarger said the library used to average 1,200 people a day, but now more than 1,800 patrons walk through the door on an average day. On one Sunday in January, more than 2,000 people visited. Last year, 679,000 people visited the library, which was 153,000 more than visited in 2000, according to library records.

Since the gala to celebrate the library's reopening in August, 181,000 people came to see the changes. And the changes, made possible by a 10-year, $38.6 million levy passed by voters in 1995, are numerous. Just a few include:

  • The overall space has increased from 186,000 square feet to 271,000 square feet. The extra room has allowed most of the library's million-item collection, three-fourths of which used to be stored in the basement, to be moved upstairs for display.

  • The audio-visual collection has moved from cramped quarters to a room that is stocked with DVDs, videotapes, books on tape, and compact discs.

  • A rare-book room features a climate-controlled book vault, a 1,000-volume collection, and comfortable reading chairs.

    The library has a renovated children's room stocked with computers and a bank of television monitors. Doors specially built to heights that only kids can fit through lead to shelves full of thousands of children's books.

    As some children peck away at keyboards and others play in the front section of a vintage Cadillac that's sticking out of a wall, Clyde Scoles, director of the library, beams with pride. “We tried to create a space where kids say to their moms and grandmas, `I want to come back. I want to go back there next week,'” he said.

    Something many students in the area will get to participate in this year is the Jason project, which was founded in 1989 by Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered the wrecks of the Titanic and the German warship Bismarck.

    Students will get to use the library's McMaster Family Center for Lifelong Learning to communicate with the project's scientists while they examine glaciers and Alaskan plants and animals.

    “It's so much different from a videotape or a slide show that you and I had when we were in school,” said Chris Kozak, the library's spokesman.

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