An estimated 5,000 people came through the newly rebuilt $64 million Dayton Metro Library during Saturday’s grand opening.
And visitors were impressed.
“It’s lovely inside. I can’t wait for the kids to use it,” said Karil Sampson, 40, of Dayton. “I think it’s a great anchor for the city. This is a great investment.”
Sally Roof, 63, a teacher at Kiser Pre-K-6 School in Dayton, said she is excited both as a library patron and a teacher.
“Just the size of it and the selection,” Roof said. “The digital components, space for the kids as well as the huge amount of selection.”
With three floors, the new library allows the Dayton Metro System to pull out of storage books that didn’t fit in the old library.
Along with more books, Executive Director Tim Kambitsch said the library is outfitted with 135 all-new computers, up from the previous 40, along with improved technology infrastructure, new seating and tables. Laptop computers can be borrowed. Large windows make the library far more bright and open than the old one and artwork by regional artists decorates the walls. Dominating the space is artist Terry Welker’s Fractal Rain, a huge kinetic sculpture of prisms and wire suspended in the three-story atrium.
There is a theater, a separate performance space that holds 299 people, community rooms, conference and study rooms, space for youth and a quiet room. A parking garage was built underneath to address the shortage of on-street parking in the library area.
On Saturday 9-year-old Maggie Shively, a student at Orchard Park Elementary in Kettering, was trying her hand at some decidedly old technology, the microfilm machines used to read the library’s vast collection of old newspapers.
“I’s beautiful. It’s huge. It’s way better for kids,” Shively said of the new library. “I will be checking out books a lot.”
Lucious Plant, director of talent acquisition for the Dayton Development Coalition, said the library is an important economic development tool.
“The challenge for the community is clearly to find a pathway to encourage workforce development and lifelong learning,” Plant said. “This (library) is a key to putting together the future for our economic health.”
Aaron Glett, 31, of Dayton, said having the kind of resources that the new main library offers will help people “envision the future.”
Grand opening festivities included a street festival, a poem read by Sierra Leone at the opening ceremony, and performances by Muse Machine, The Human Race Theatre Company, Zoot Theater, The Repeating Arms, and The Art of Word in Motion.
The new main Dayton Metro Library has been under construction for two years at 215 E. Third St., at Cooper Park, where the city’s library has been located since 1888. The second version of the library opened in 1962 on the same site and the new one is built on the gutted structure of that one.
Kambitsch called it the “rebirth of a building.”
“We’ve seen a lot of new amenities in downtown. I think this is going to be the crowning one that brings downtown together in a way we have not seen since the 1960s,” Kambitsch said.
With its opening, the new main library also launches year-round Sunday hours from 1-4 p.m. at the main library only.
The main library is the 10th of 18 library projects to be completed during the library system’s taxpayer-funded $187 million facility renovation and replacement project. Voters in 2012 approved a property tax bond issue to revamp the library system. The main library came in on budget but nine months behind schedule.
Eight projects remain to be done, all branch libraries. Three are in final stages of design, with one — the West Carrollton branch — ready to be bid out. Replacement of the Wilmington-Stroop branch in Kettering and the new southeast branch at Belmont High School should be under construction by the end of the year, Kambitsch said.
The remaining five projects are replacements of six library branches with new ones in new locations. Property acquisition is underway.
Kambitsch said the new branches can’t be built on the existing sites and so will have new homes. Five new branches will be built to replace the Burdkhardt, Huber Heights, Northmont, Trotwood, Madden Hills and Westwood branches.