Kent Branch Library opens after $3 million renovation

12/6/2011
BY KATE GIAMMARISE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Janice Holmes uses a computer in the newly reopened Kent Branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library as her 3-year-old granddaughter Surrya Silver watches. The branch is in the Old West End.
Janice Holmes uses a computer in the newly reopened Kent Branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library as her 3-year-old granddaughter Surrya Silver watches. The branch is in the Old West End.

Walk into the newly renovated Kent Branch Library and you are greeted by cheerful bright green and purple walls.

Displays of new books are all around, along with plants, sculpture, and colorful artwork.

On one side, a fireplace surrounded by large, soft armchairs beckons.

The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library branch at 3101 Collingwood Blvd. hosted an open house Monday to show off its new look.

The auditorium has a new ceiling and floor, and dividers allow the space to be split into two rooms. The small kitchen has been upgraded. There is a new cafe, and a new public entrance; the former courtyard has been enclosed, adding 997 square feet to the library’s space.

Administrative offices have been relocated to one side of the building.

“We have enhanced the flow of the building,” explained Faith Hairston, the branch’s manager.

But the facility’s “crowning jewel” is its computer training room, she said. There, 12 computers will be available for use by school groups and computer classes. Or they can be booked by community groups. Additionally, the number of public computers outside this space available in the library has increased from 13 to 32, Ms. Hairston said.

The facility is so digitally connected, library officials have dubbed it “Kent Branch Library @CCESS Center.”

Several patrons were taking advantage of the computers Monday.

Chiray Quinn, who lives nearby, was checking e-mail.

She admired the renovations.

“They did a great job,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”

Old West End Academy second-graders in Diane Rausch’s class ask for library card applications after touring the reopened Kent Branch.
Old West End Academy second-graders in Diane Rausch’s class ask for library card applications after touring the reopened Kent Branch.
LaToya Carter, also a neighborhood resident, was using the computers for schoolwork, checking e-mail, and for her work selling Avon products.

“I love the space. I love the look,” she said.

However, though the library has increased its digital offerings, that shouldn’t intimidate those patrons just looking to peruse books or other printed material.

“We still offer the traditional library services,” such as books and magazines, Ms. Hairston emphasized.

The total cost of the yearlong renovation project was about $3 million, according to library officials. The library’s general fund contributed $856,781, various community partners added another $70,500, and the bulk of the funding came from a $2.2 million federal stimulus grant.

The project finished far ahead of schedule; it was expected to take 20 months, with the branch not reopening until spring. The library closed to the public in November, 2010; it reopened Nov. 15, but had a ceremony and dedication Monday.

The library is open this month from noon to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Beginning Jan. 3, the library will be open from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays and 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

The stimulus funds were available through the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program, which targets low-income populations, the unemployed, and other underserved groups.

The Kent Branch serves a population where 30 percent of residents over 25 lack a high school diploma, 15.7 percent of residents over 16 are unemployed, and 63.8 percent of adults over 65 have disabilities.

The funds also paid for the Cybermobile, a mobile library branch with 12 computers and high-speed broadband Internet access.

It will follow the library’s bookmobile route, visiting nursing homes, public housing sites, and rural areas. “This means we can take the technology to the people,” Ms. Hairston said.

The branch is also home to the library’s Art Tatum African American Resource Center.

“We want this to be a warm, inviting place for people to come,” said Brett Collins, the center’s librarian specialist, gesturing to the fireplace and artwork on the walls.

Alice Grace, a neighborhood resident and an artist who created three quilts that hang on the wall there, said she hopes library patrons see the works and “look within themselves. ... This world has so much to offer.

“Just get out. Pick up a book. Read. Do your own thinking, and no one can interfere with that.”

Contact Kate Giammarise at: kgiammarise@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.