Dayton Main Library nears completion

By Beth Langefels

Tim Kambitsch has been the executive director of the Dayton Metro Library since 2001 and has seen much growth and change during his tenure.

“We recognized that many of our library branches were small and out of date,” Kambitsch says. “Many had not a single meeting room.”

The “Libraries for a Smarter Future” project involved the renovation of 21 branch buildings and the total reconstruction of the main library in downtown Dayton.

“The main library was undersized for our community,” Kambitsch says. “It had opened originally in 1962 and, believe it or not, it had only shrunk over time as we continued to add more and more capacity at branches.”

One of the most significant changes since the decades of the 1960s through the 1980s was the need for computers and internet access. To create office space for functions like information technology public space in the main library was slowly whittled away.

“The existing (main library) building only had about 28,000 square feet of public space,” Kambitsch says. “It was crowded and we had a huge demand for services. People were coming in and waiting for computers.”

With an estimated 30 percent of Montgomery County residents without internet access at home the library had become the primary place to fill the void. But the demand had turned the main library’s meeting rooms into waiting rooms.

And without meeting rooms Kambitsch says the programs began to suffer. Children’s programming at some of the smaller branches ended up taking up the entire branch.

“We have always opened our doors and provided community rooms to organizations,” Kambitsch says. “And we have about 8,000 unique programs offered at the library.”

As the renovation and construction on the main library nears completion patrons can look forward to an entirely new library experience, including a theater with a sound and lighting system, a community room that holds up to 150 people and additional display and exhibit spaces.

“We want to future-proof our buildings,” Kambitsch says. “Libraries are taking away more book stacks and adding more hands-on computer and production labs.”

In addition to the bond issue passed by voters in Montgomery County, “Libraries for a Smarter Future” was funded by a million-dollar estate grant. Those monies are helping fund some unique art pieces that will be on display in all locations. The new main library will also include a coffee vendor area, which effectively removes the now outdated “no eating or drinking” in the library rule.

“We want people to use the library on their own terms because it’s a space dedicated to them,” Kambitsch says. “It’s much more of an engaging space now and any Ohio resident can come and truly enjoy the library and the creative arts in ways in which they never have before.”

The community open house will be conducted at the main library from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5. 

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