Released: February 11, 2014

Columbus library growing amid digital age

Columbus Metropolitan Library is spending about $120 million to rebuild seven branches and renovate and expand three others, including the Main Library.

The work comes at a time when nearly everything in the 21-branch system — books, music, videos, magazines — is increasingly available on a computer, tablet or smartphone. In fact, circulation of digital materials has increased from 51,608 units in 2009 to more than 966,000 last year.

So why spend so much money on bricks and mortar?

Part of the answer can be found in a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. Books — real paper-and-cloth books — are as popular as ever.

Although 28 percent of Americans 18 or older read an e-book in the past year (up from 17 percent last year), 69 percent had read a physical book, the same rate as the year before.

And while bookstores are disappearing in the shadow of online giants such as Amazon, libraries are being repositioned as computer centers, social gathering places and, increasingly, safety nets for Columbus’ troubled schools.


Finding the right balance is the challenge.

“Even as they want libraries to fill a lot of roles, they are reluctant to see libraries not be identified with books,” said Kathryn Zickuhr, research associate at the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project.

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