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2001 overhaul provided major boost for Main Library


Glass murals representing various branches of knowledge surround the central court in the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library's Main Library in downtown Toledo.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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More than a decade has passed since the Main Library of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library system underwent its major overhaul.

The square footage of the facility on Michigan Street was 186,000 prior to the 1995 passage of a 10-year, $38.6 million bond issue, which library Director Clyde Scoles said was the largest ever passed in Lucas County up to that point. By the time the three-year Main Library renovations were finished in August, 2001, the building had expanded to 271,000 square feet.

The funds raised from the bond issue were spread to branches throughout Lucas County and contributed to new branches built. But much of the money went specifically to the Main Library, which expanded behind the original building onto where 10th Street previously ran.

READ MORE: Toledo-Lucas County Public Library celebrates 175 years

The addition of the new building, connected to the original by a three-level glass atrium Wintergarden, allowed the library to display on the first floor most of its million-item collection, 75 percent of which had previously been stored in the basement away from public access.

“To maintain the ambiance and the architectural integrity of this building, it was felt that we would put the new building behind this [the original] and kind of bowing down, paying homage to the main library,” Mr. Scoles said.

In addition to construction of a new building, the original was upgraded. The children’s area on the second floor expanded in size, added 22 computers with Internet access, and now has a room for activities like storytelling and puppet shows. The audio-visual collection, previously cramped in the current location of the children's area, relocated to the first floor near the building's main entrance.

A teen area and large computer cluster were made available for public use on the first floor.

“Communities were really grateful and excited [about the renovations], because a large part of what they want from us is an environment,” said Charlie Oswanski, facilities and operations superintendent for the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library system.

“They want a place that they can be ... safe and clean and comfortable [and] be successful here. That’s what patrons are looking for and that’s what we actually got when we did a lot of those new buildings and renovations,” he said.

Before the renovations, the library’s rare-book collection was exposed to water and temperatures that damaged books. “Everything was turning to brown snow,” Mr. Scoles said.

Rare books are now stored in the climate-controlled Blade Rare Book Room.

Though most of the funding for the renovations came via the public through the bond issue and tax anticipation notes, there were some additions made possible only through private funds to the Library Legacy Foundation. A rooftop civic plaza outside the second floor cost $1 million in private contributions.

The McMaster Family Center for Lifelong Learning came about from an $850,000 donation from Toledo philanthropists Harold and Helen McMaster and their children. That wing is equipped for multimedia presentations, including distance learning and video teleconferencing. Recently, electrical outlets were added to seats in the wing to allow devices such as cell phones and iPods to be charged.

An emphasis on technology was obvious in the early 2000s overhaul, and modern technology usage will continue to be stressed in future renovations, Main Library Manager Meg Delaney said.

“Technology’s a tool rather than being a thing in and of itself,” she said. “It’s a way to get to what people want. So in every aspect of our operation, we bring more and more technology to bear to make that information easier for people to find.”

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