Children's area focuses on learning.

One of the first things patrons notice about the children's section in the main branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library is the egress. Two entrances—one for adults and one for children—are built into the glass wall that frames the area. Because there are no doors, there's also no barrier for young patrons to access the space.

Main Library, located Downtown, reopened in June 2016 after a 14-month closure. The massive renovation brought brighter, more accessible spaces throughout, including to the centrally located children's area, which has loads of natural light, ample shelves of books, kid-friendly furniture and even an aquarium.

The prime gathering spot, though, is the story circle, which hosts 20 to 25 programs a week. “This is the hub. This is the real heartbeat of Main Library,” said Abby Kiracofe, manager of the children's division.

Like other CML branches, Main Library stresses early childhood literacy. A wooden school bus is parked in the Ready for Kindergarten area, which also has a smart board and eight tablets with developmentally appropriate games.

One of the most innovative features for budding bookworms is a series of seven bins, in which titles are grouped in categories such as ABC, 123, shapes, colors, Disney, Star Wars, superheroes and bedtime. Books are displayed facing forward, rather than spine out—an organizational tactic to help those who can't read yet. “We judge books by the covers, and it's OK,” Kiracofe said. “We want kids to be able to pick out their own books because they're going to have more fun reading them.”

Kiracofe said staff members work to connect kids with books that interest them, and they also can help parents select books that match their child's reading level.

The branch hosts regular Ready for Kindergarten events, including storytimes for toddlers, preschoolers and families, as well as half-hour classes to prepare kids ages 3-5 for the classroom. Students in grades K-3 can practice their literacy skills through the Reading Buddies program, a systemwide effort tied to Ohio's Third-Grade Reading Guarantee.

Tweens and teens get their own spaces at the library, with the former between the children's area and the Homework Help Center. The second-floor teen area offers computers, books, an Xbox video game and a social seating area. A YouMedia Teens program provides an opportunity to learn skills such as sound design, digital art and photography and video production. The aim is to motivate patrons to graduate from high school.

Parking is available in the library garage; take Library Park North from South Grant Avenue. The first hour is free, with rates between 50 cents and $10 thereafter.