Community celebrates literacy with library reopening

By Dedra Cordle

Messenger Photos by Dedra Cordle
State officials, City of Columbus officials and Columbus Metropolitan Library officials celebrate the grand reopening of the Hilltop branch on September 30. The newly renovated branch, which is still located at 511 S. Hague Ave., boasts 32,500 square feet of space, an interactive kids’ area, a tween and teens area, an academic support center, several meeting rooms. and conference room, a learning lab, commissioned public art works, and a strong collection of library materials to meet community needs.
Jess Minshall (left) and Svil Rusanov (right) of The Amazing Giants stilt walking troupe made an appearance at the dedication. Minshall said that by donning their stilts they can reach over 9 feet tall.
Among the keynote speakers at the opening was Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine. She encouraged parents of young children (infancy to 5 years old) to enroll in the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library to receive free books. For more information, visit their website at
The children of Hilltop Branch Young Minds were able to cut their own ribbon at the public dedication ceremony.
Sierra Johnson, Kristen Johnson and Zoey Roberts (pictured left to right) find a cozy reading spot near the small aquarium in the kids’ area.
Hillary Moran reads to her daughter Thea Cavender, 4, in a circular corner. Although it was not specifically designed for rest or play, many children have used its untapped potential.
Barbara Kientzy-Moore examines the historical artifacts on display. Almost every room has some significance for the Hilltop area.
Mateo Polt, 14, consults the extended graphic novels section of the children’s department.
Ryan Gerig, an employee of the CML Dublin branch, provides help in one of the library’s many IT sections. The Hilltop branch has over 60 computers available to the public.
Children work and play at the interactive computer station.

Carol Pugh has always believed in the power of libraries.

From an early age, she took her first steps in its premises, she is amazed by its infinite potential, by its ability to transport and transform while opening the pages of a book.

This initial impression stuck with her throughout her life; it even inspired her to become a librarian.

“It was the best place I could imagine being,” said Pugh, who retired from Stewart Alternative Elementary of Columbus City Schools in 2012.

She said what she loved most about her job was watching children walk through doors, some taking their first steps in a library.

She saw the children interacting with each other, heard them talk about their likes and dislikes; she watched them pick up books that caught their interest and saw them share them with others.

“A library is a place that builds character, makes friendships,” Pugh said. “It teaches them to be respectful of possessions that are not theirs and to be kind to those who do not share your interests.”

Throughout her years of working at school, she helped instill a passion for reading in hundreds of children, and sometimes even their parents. Her contagious love for the public places that contain these books has even managed to seep into the bones of her immediate family.

“We are all avid readers and big supporters of libraries,” said Carl Pugh, Carol’s husband for over 50 years. “We cannot not be in this home.”

One of their favorite places to visit as a family unit was the Hilltop branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library – and it just wasn’t because it was located in their western neighborhood.

“It had a lot of charm,” Pugh said. “It was smaller, more intimate, but there were still great programs for kids, teens and seniors like us.”

Like many in the community, the Pugh family were saddened by the news that the building at 511 S. Hague Ave. would be closed in 2020 to make way for a large reconstruction project. But they could see the bright side of this announcement.

“There are many communities across this country that don’t have libraries, let alone see a brand new one built,” Pugh said. “Although we hated to see it disappear, we knew that a brand new building could have a positive impact on our community for generations to come. “

For over a year, they watched the construction stages of the Hilltop branch, becoming more and more excited over the months. Then, when its doors finally opened to the public on September 30, 2021, they were among the first feet in the building.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” Pugh said as she and Carl supervised their 5-year-old granddaughter Maddie as she walked through the enlarged children’s area, laughing, pulling books from the shelves, sharing them. with others. “Seeing these kids, seeing all these teens and adults so excited to be in a library is just an amazing thing to experience.”

She said she looked forward to seeing how this would develop, how the programs would develop and what power he would wield in the Westside community.

“It will be a wonderful tool that everyone can enjoy,” Pugh said. “We are so lucky to have this here.”

John Tetzloff, a native of Hilltop and director of the Hilltop branch since 2010, also felt grateful for the opportunity. to live.

“I never thought that day would come,” he said.

He said this was in part due to how the renovated library came to fruition.

It was November 2010 and on the ballot was a property tax of $ 2.8 million which, if approved, would generate $ 56 million per year for the Columbus Metropolitan Library. With these funds, CML planned a huge “ambitious building program” to renovate or rebuild 10 of its 23 locations. Among the sites slated for reconstruction was the Hilltop branch, which opened in its current location in 1996.

Knowing that the measure would increase property taxes, Tetzloff was unsure whether voters would approve the levy request, especially those who lived in more economically stressed areas of Columbus, such as Hilltop.

“We were only two years away from the recession, so we didn’t have too many hopes,” he said. “But we were confident in the support we are receiving from our communities. “

The tax was approved and the multi-stage “reinvention and revitalization” of CML branches began in earnest. CML CEO Patrick Losinski congratulated the community for making this “difficult decision” during the public dedication on September 30.

“You have supported us in a huge way and no one deserves this anymore,” he said.

Losinski said the opening of the library is more than a place to consult books, stressing that it is just as important.

“This building means so much more to this neighborhood,” he said. “This represents an opportunity to provide information and technological needs. It helps students recover from the educational crisis caused by the pandemic, it helps with vocational training and economic growth, and it helps inspire and transform lives for years and years to come. “

The new Hilltop branch, which is still located at 511 S. Hague Ave., has 32,000 square feet of space, an interactive kids’ zone, a Ready for Kindergarten zone, a tweens and teens zone, and a help center. school where students can get free help after school. The library also has four large meeting rooms, two conference rooms, six study rooms, a learning lab, a quiet and spacious room, public works of art, nooks. lounges with views of the neighborhood and a “solid” collection of library materials to meet the needs of the community. Needs. The Hilltop branch also boasts of having 62 computers.

“There will be no more queue to access computers again,” Tetzloff said. “Or at least there shouldn’t be.”

Tetzloff said he was excited about the promise of this building, for the impact it can have on the lives of community members.

“Our mantra is that we support families,” he said. “We all want to support our children, but we believe that if you want to support children, you must also support families. “

He said the library will do this by offering a wide variety of programs. For the youngest, the library will offer Baby Laptime! for behavior and pre-literacy training; Story time for preschoolers; kindergarten preparation course; and more in-depth reading instructions to help kids conquer the Grade 3 reading guarantee.

For older learners there will be the aforementioned school help center, summer reading programs and a new “YOUmedia” learning lab that will teach teens to write songs, make movies or code. using the latest digital technologies.

The library will also offer “life skills” programs for adults looking for work and plans to partner with local health agencies or non-profit organizations to get help with this. health care or to access legal advice.

In addition to all of these programs, the library will also continue to offer fun programming for all ages. Of note, local author Andrew Welsh-Huggins came on October 5 and they will host a Hilltop history show on October 18 at 5:30 p.m. The library will announce future events on their website or on his social networks. media pages.

Like Tetzloff and the Pugh family before him, Cree Johnson and Alex Miranda said they were impressed with the new facility, the new programs, and the promise of anything it can do for the community.

Johnson, a mother of two young daughters, said she was delighted the branch was open again.

“We went to this little mall branch they set up (when that location closed in 2020), but it’s just not the same anymore,” Johnson said. “Now we can access all the books we want, my daughters can go to those quiet rooms to do their homework and really focus on the topics with help around the corner if they need it. “

Miranda, a recent West High School graduate, said he has been coming to the Hilltop branch since he was a child.

“My brother and I used to come here every day after school,” he said. “You could say we grew up here in a way.”

He said coming to the library not only kept them from “getting out of trouble”, it gave them an outlet, it helped them make new friends and it gave them a new perspective on life’s possibilities. .

Miranda said he knows the library will continue to impact people of all ages.

“It’s a great place,” he said. “Sure, they have a great staff and it’s just a welcoming place for everyone who comes in through those doors.”

About Shirley L. Kreger

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