Columbus Metropolitan Library


Columbus, OH


Architecture, Interior Design, MEP Engineering, Structural Engineering


2023 AIA Tennessee Merit Award

2023 AIA Middle Tennessee Merit Award

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The Columbus Metropolitan Library’s (CML) Hilltop Branch is located in the heart of Hilltop, one of the largest neighborhoods in Columbus, Ohio. While the library had served as a focal point for residents as well as Hilltop’s youth since 1996, the community was fast outgrowing the dated circa 1990s space.

The client sought an addition and renovation to the existing building that would better meet the unique needs of this community and help re-energize the Hilltop neighborhood. Gresham Smith’s modernization provides CML’s Hilltop Branch with a safer and more engaging learning environment for children and young adults while expressing a strong message of inclusivity to the community.

square feet of dynamic, new space
square foot children’s addition
view of the front reception desk with people browsing books in the background

They Can See Clearly Now!

Striking an almost sculpturesque tone as you enter the building, the circulation desk is on axis with the entry and offers clear sightlines to the new children’s addition as well as the “Homework Help” area for young adults.

Expansive, energy-efficient windows bring natural light into the space and allow passersby to see activity inside the library. This purposeful transparency throughout the interiors creates a safer and more open environment for patrons and staff alike.

children’s books section with young children and parents browsing the books and reading at children’s tables

Playful & Fun

The new 12,000-square-foot children’s addition provides support for programs, allocating generous areas in which children can read, study and use computers.

Light-filled spaces accented by playful pieces standard across Columbus Metro libraries—such as a mock-yellow school bus with pint-sized seats—were carried over from the library’s young reader program, adding to a fun new environment where kids can let their imagination run free.

: a young girl reads a book while sitting inside a circular nook built within the bookshelves

A Nook Among the Books

The interior hosts a variety of learning and social settings, which allow users to select the right environment for them. Design elements, such as this built-in reading nook in the children’s area, ensure there’s a space for everyone.

school children walk through a seating area below a large skylight, while a young boy and his father look at a fish tank

A True Transformation

In stark contrast to the previous space’s low ceilings and dimly lit interiors, the new space features high ceilings and an abundance of natural light, which nods to the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s established architectural language.

To help Hilltop endure another 25 years and beyond, durable and sustainable materials and surfaces were introduced into the design. Additionally, the unique acoustical design reduces disruption in areas where concentration and quiet time is needed.

a man and boy approach the front reception desk of the library

Promoting Equity

The library has programs for everyone in the community. Critical to this underserved neighborhood, it provides public areas for computers for a significant percentage of the population who don’t own computers or have internet access at home. Additionally, tweens and teens have individualized spaces that feature interests tailored to their age groups.

The newly renovated space also includes updated, larger meeting areas and private conference rooms to better accommodate the hundreds of meetings that are scheduled at the branch each year. Other community support areas include quiet study rooms, an after-school help center and a career resource center.

adults reading and walking through the aisles of books

A Place for Everyone

Elevating the existing building form, the revitalized Hilltop Branch now serves as a neighborhood icon. More than a community center, town hall or public park could ever do alone, the library connects the community under one roof in a dynamic, welcoming space that provides safe, accessible and free educational resources—for everyone.