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The Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML) system is one of the most heavily used public library systems in the United States, but some of its 21 locations are over 40 years old and no longer meet the demands of their growing communities. In order to better serve central Ohio’s 820,000 residents, CML has embarked upon a building program known as the 2020 Vision Plan. The plan is a multi-phased, comprehensive blueprint that reinvents and revitalizes the entire 600,000 square feet maintained by the library.

The 2020 Vision Plan was established as a three phase master facilities plan. Currently, Phase I – which involves 10 libraries – is targeting completion by 2017. Each of the seven new libraries and three renovations are prioritizing sustainability; several are targeting LEED certification.


The centerpiece of the library system is the Main branch, a Carnegie library built in 1907. This building is also a focal point of Columbus’ Discovery District. The library has seen four addition/renovation projects in its lifetime; a fifth is in the schematic design stage as part of Phase I of the 2020 Plan. The renovation will seek to connect the library with Topiary Park as well as repair and revamp the front plaza, making it more of an urban space. The historic Deaf School, which had been vacant for some time, will reopen as a new Cristo Rey Columbus High School and round out this civic zone.

Main library interior space will be modified to have a more efficient layout. “Adjacencies will be different,” explains Wendy Tressler, Manager of the 2020 Vision Plan/Construction for CML. Staff is currently housed in an outdated arrangement of corridors lined with private offices; these will transition to a more modern office layout. The children’s area will also be updated. The original Carnegie frontispiece, which currently houses a gallery and meeting room, will be made more accessible. GUND Partnership has been selected as the Lead Designer for the $22 million renovation, working with Schooley Caldwell of Columbus as Local Architect of Record.

Branch Locations

Also as part of Phase I of the 2020 Plan, seven urban branches (Driving Park, Whitehall, Parsons, Martin Luther King, Northside, Northern Lights and Shepard) and two suburban branches (Hilliard and Dublin) will be updated.

The Driving Park library is due to open in June. Stormwater management is the sustainability focus for this project, which will feature a rain garden. The design for the new building places social functions along the perimeter of the building, where a transparent façade promotes engagement with the street.

Tony Murry, a landscape designer with NBBJ, has been involved in the design of several rain gardens and detention-infiltration basins locally around central Ohio as well as abroad.

“The opportunities that these performing landscapes create go well beyond environmental benefits; they open up opportunities for education, sophisticated design, new habitat, urban renewal, and startup and life cycle cost savings for our clients,” said Murry.

The design for the Whitehall branch is complete; the sustainability focus for this project was on daylighting. It will feature 100% LED lighting, which is a LEED strategy but also reduces first time costs for the project. The Driving Park and Whitehall projects are both pursuing LEED Gold.

“Although the LEED scorecards are similar for these two projects,” said Tressler, “how teams got there were different.” Choices for how to obtain LEED points were largely site-driven.

The Northern Lights and Parsons libraries are in the schematic design stage.

“Green Libraries: Columbus Metropolitan Library’s 2020 Building Program,” a learning session that will take place at DesignColumbus 2014 at COSI on April 28, will feature nine presenters who are involved with the design of CML building projects. Highlights from the Driving Park, Whitehall, and Northern Lights projects will focus on lighting, storm management, and renovation strategies. For complete speaker and presentation information, see the session description here.

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