The new Main Library in Columbus, Georgia, merges 21st-century library technology with traditional library services to create an institution that will serve the needs of the Columbus community for many years to come. Located on a central 42-acre site formerly occupied by the abandoned Columbus Square Mall, the library and the park surrounding it provides the community with an important cultural amenity in a landscaped setting.
The three-story library rises to a lantern that has become a beacon for Columbus, visible from I-185 and from surrounding neighborhoods. The library’s dignified architectural character respects the red-brick Classicism of Georgia in a contemporary way. Sloping roofs give it a welcoming appearance, and a large gentle curve on the southwest of the otherwise rectilinear building captures panoramic views while echoing the circular lantern above. High-quality materials are used both inside and out to create a lasting and appropriate new civic building for Columbus.
The brick and limestone front facade of the building faces north towards Macon Road with a two-story-high covered porch at the main entry. Ample parking for 339 cars is provided in front of the library building, with a convenient drop-off area and book drop. Inside the main entry there is an active lobby space with direct access to the popular materials section, the children’s library, and the conference center; and, overhead, an oculus to the rotunda space beneath the sixty-foot-diameter lantern above.
Just inside the entrance, readers have access to the popular materials section, an informal browsing area modeled on successful large bookstores and featuring best-sellers, books-on-tape, CD and video rentals, as well as a coffee shop serving light refreshments. Also on the first floor is a section devoted to teen readers and the children’s library, arranged in distinct sections for children of different ages, from picture book collections for preschoolers to homework areas for older children. A separate dedicated room is provided for children’s story hour and arts and crafts activities. In good weather the children are able to enjoy a secure and supervised outdoor garden for casual reading and storytelling hours.
Many libraries now provide full conference facilities, and the new Columbus Library is no exception. On the east side of the first floor, the conference center includes a 124-seat auditorium, a 2,700-square-foot multipurpose meeting room, and small conference and training rooms. The conference center has state-of-the-art technology including teleconferencing capabilities that allow for hook-ups to Muscogee County schools, Columbus State University, and other, more remote locations. The conference center has its own dedicated entry, so that it can be used even when the library is closed. Also on the first floor are work spaces for library staff and a service yard that can accommodate the substantial materials delivery needs of a modern library.
A broad, grand stairway directly off the lobby rises to a circular gallery space on the second level where the work of local artists and photographers can be displayed. Alternatively, library patrons may ascend in one of three elevators.
The main collection of the library, both fiction and non-fiction, is located on the second floor, laid out in one continuous sequence for ease of retrieval. Patron seating areas face the large north and east windows that run along the front of the building. Quiet study and group study rooms are also provided. Computers for internet access, which play an important role in the new library, are grouped together in "e-commons" adjacent to the reference desk so that the reference librarian can assist in searches and other patron queries.
A significant architectural feature on the second floor is the arced double-height grand reading room, a 50 foot by 100 foot room in the tradition of great American public libraries. There is significant opportunity in this space for artistic enhancements both now and in the future. The grand reading room opens onto to an outdoor balcony for social events.
The third floor of the library contains public conference rooms, services for library patrons with special physical needs next to the elevators, and offices for library administration, all accessible from the central rotunda.