Central Ohio Libraries: Columbus Metropolitan Library

The entrance to the Columbus Metropolitan Library Main Library in downtown Columbus.

As you may well know by now, we’re always looking for fun and free things to do. And we award bonus points if they’re educational as well. It was such a goal that led Marina and I to spend an afternoon touring the libraries of Central Ohio. Our first visit was to the Columbus Main Library.

About the Columbus Metropolitan Library

The Columbus Metropolitan Libraries are comprised of 23 separate branches. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of visiting several of the branches. I have also used the online resources for both digital and audio books as well.

A view of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

As you can imagine, the library system is an incredible collection of not only books, but access to services, art and education in general. The library, in fact, is a point of access to all types of resources. In addition to accessing the printed word, you can reserve a study or meeting room, use a computer or print materials.

You can additionally use the library’s “Culture Pass” for free admission to activities all over the city. By using the pass, you can get free admission to the Columbus Zoo, COSI, the Columbus Museum of Art, Franklin Park Conservatory and more. And you can attend performances of Ballet Met, the Columbus Symphony, the Columbus Children’s Theater and others. You can even catch a minor league baseball game with the Columbus Clippers!

The History of Columbus Main Library

The first library in Columbus was a reading room, located on the first floor of Columbus City Hall and featured 1500 volumes. It was opened in 1873 and in 1906 moved to a separate site across from the Ohio Statehouse.

On the left, Brutus Buckeye Lego statue in the Columbus Metropolitan Library. On the right, inside the marble hallways of the library.
There was a huge Lego display on the main floor of the library. In the Reading Room we found this Brutus work.

Between 1883 and 1929, Andrew Carnegie funded 2509 libraries worldwide. 1795 of them were in the United States and 104 of those in the state of Ohio. Carnegie initially passed on funding a large main library in Columbus, as he preferred smaller satellite locations that were more accessible to the working class. The library director, John Pugh, travelled to New York to meet with Carnegie and secure the funds.

The house at 96 Grant Street had previously house six of our state’s governors, including future president Rutherford B. Hayes. In 1903 the home was demolished to make way for construction and the library was opened in April 1907.

Visiting the Columbus Main Library

But for today’s tour, we decided to visit the Columbus Main Library on Grant Avenue in downtown Columbus. As you would expect, admission is free.

Because the library is located in the downtown area, there can be a charge for the garage. We were there to visit the building and exhibits, more than the library itself, so our stay was less than an hour and therefore we parked in the garage for free. Even if your visit extends beyond the one hour free period, parking rates are very reasonable. As of this writing, you can park for up to five hours for only $3.

The Columbus Metropolitan Library. The floors and walls are marble and there's a large black artwork hanging from the ceiling.

Libraries have long held a special place in my heart. They ask nothing of you, but offer you the world. And this library, the Columbus Main Library, is clearly a very special place.

Everything seems so grand, from the sheer number of books, to the artwork and indeed even the size of the place. Designed in the Beaux-Arts style, the space is defined by white marble and gray granite, punctuated by the large windows.

This location alone is home to over 300,000 books and the main reading room alone can seat more than 800 people. In addition to the usual library spaces (children’s room, teen room, etc.), the library houses an auditorium, the Carnegie Gallery, a library store and Carnegie’s Cafe.

Topiary Park and Grounds

In the center of the west lawn of the library is a sculpture of Peter Pan. The brass sculpture is of Pan as a boy playing the flute and resides within the center of a fountain. It was dedicated to the library by a local businessman to memorialize his son who passed at the age of six.

With the most recent library renovation in 2015, efforts were made to connect the library grounds to those of Topiary Park. It is officially known as Old Deaf School Park. The park was designed and opened in the mid to late 1980s.

The elegant stairways in the Columbus Metropolitan Library, made of white marble with wooden handrails.

The topiaries of the park are designed after George Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. It was sculpted for Columbus’ Ameriflora exhibit in 1992 and is the only park designed entirely on a painting.


Libraries in Ohio and beyond are an amazing resource, but only if we use them. I encourage you to make yourself familiar with your local library. Visit them in person, or online if you must, but they are truly a treasure trove of learning.

Thanks for FindingOhio at the Columbus Main Library with us today. Check back next week when we publish the next article in our series on Central Ohio Libraries.

We publish at least once a week and often include activities that are free or budget friendly. Looking for something free and fun? Visit Jungle Jim’s International Market near Cincinnati. Or head to Portsmouth to visit their famous painted flood wall. There’s so much to do here!

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