By Linda Dillman
A collaborative effort following years of discussion between Canal Winchester Mayor Mike Ebert and Columbus Metropolitan Library system CEO Patrick Losinski resulted in a local branch that now draws more than 3,000 visitors a month.
“Bringing library services to Canal Winchester was important to us because the city falls within our service area and its residents vote on our levies,” said CML spokesman Ben Zenitsky.
A lease agreement of 1$ a year, plus $500 per month for utilities and usage, for space on the west side of the former Washington Street school complex, now home to school district offices and the National Barber Museum, was approved by the Canal Winchester Board of Education in December 2014. After renovating the space, the branch opened to the public in January 2016.
“The Canal Winchester branch has brought life into a vacant portion of the former high school building, returning it to its original purpose of equipping young minds for future success,” said Zenitsky. “Customer visits to the branch in 2016 were approximately 34,000 (2,800 per month). In 2017, they were approximately 39,500 (3,300 per month). Visits in 2018 have remained comparable to 2017 counts.”
Branch Manager Matt Craft said the community response has been tremendous and a lot of regular patrons come in and trade book recommendations with staff.
“A dedicated group of students come in after school for Homework Help and Reading Buddies and we have a great relationship with the local elementary schools,” said Craft. “We have some wonderful volunteers from the area as well. Their support has been an important part of our ability to provide high-quality after school services for students. Mayor Ebert’s office has also been very supportive. It really feels like we have been incorporated into the community.”
Despite the branch’s location at 115 Franklin St. behind the former Washington Street school, Craft said Canal Winchester is a tight-knit community, word of mouth travels fast and the library staff works to promote the branch and its resources by building partnerships with the schools and other community partners.
The branch’s 2017 circulation was approximately 99,000. However, Craft said it is difficult to compare its circulation with that of other new branches since Canal Winchester is only one of two “express” model branches. Express branches are smaller and open for limited hours of operation. The Canal Winchester and Marion-Franklin branches are open 40 hours a week, while other locations are open 70 hours a week.
“The reason for this is that our Canal Winchester and Marion-Franklin branches are new to their respective communities and we’re continuing to gauge their usage,” said Craft.
When school is in session, the branch provides after school Homework Help to students in grades K-12 every Monday through Friday from 3-6 p.m. They also offer Reading Buddies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4-5 p.m.
“This program gives K-3 students 15 minutes of one-on-one reading practice with an adult buddy and is designed to help build their reading skills so they’re equipped to pass the Ohio third grade reading tests,” said Craft. “Both programs have gained popularity. In fact, Reading Buddies just had its busiest month in April. A big part of that success has been due to our great volunteers who read with kids and help them with their homework.”
Craft said branch staffers are looking forward to CML’s Summer Reading Challenge—the library system’s annual summer reading program designed to keep kids reading over the summer while earning badges and prizes and attending programs.
“We’ll have some great programs on Thursdays at 2 p.m., such as the Turtle Lady. Others feature robotics, magic and archaeology,” Craft said. “We’re also introducing a Reading Buddies Power Hour on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 2 p.m. with literacy-based games and activities for students in grades K-3.
Visit the library’s “events” page at columbuslibrary.org to learn more.
Library cards are free and sign-up can be done online or at a local branch.
“We like to say it’s the most valuable card in your wallet, as it gives you access to millions of titles as well as free digital resources through columbuslibrary.org,” said Zenitsky.
The Canal Winchester Library Branch is open Monday-Thursday from 12-7 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 12-6 p.m. and closed on Sunday.Visit columbuslibrary.org for information.