The Martin Luther King branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library has served the Near East Side Community for over fifty years. Its special collection of African-American literature and artifacts, popular nonfiction, fiction and other literary materials has made it one of the best destinations for educational and recreational stimulation. Since opening on September 2, 1968, it has been an asset to the residents of the Near East Side and the entire Columbus community. The MLK branch is dedicated to meeting the growing desire for information, circulation materials and public resources while honoring the heritage and helping to build the future of our community.
The MLK branch was the replacement for the Eastside Library which was located at 1479 Long Street from 1953 to 1968. The Eastside Library had a customer base that had outgrown the small building. The community and the Library Board of Trustees decided that it was time to move. Before the MLK branch’s opening at 1600 East Long Street, a citizens group known as the Eastside Library Advisory Council (ELAC) asked the Library Board of Trustees to ensure that this new facility would meet the special cultural, educational and economic needs that were unique to this community. ELAC worked with library administration and its architect to develop a facility which, at the time, was to be the largest branch within the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s system.
On September 25, 1969, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. was the featured speaker at the formal dedication. He told the crowd, “You have a beautiful place conducive to reading, but books are worth nothing unless you read them.” The renamed and relocated facility not only honors the work of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with his name, but also honors the residents of the Near East Side by emphasizing African and African-American history, heritage and culture.
The MLK branch has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to honoring this history with things like the permanent display of the African Treasure Chest. The chest was created in 1984 by the nonprofit Friends of Art for Community Enrichment (F.A.C.E.). Inside the African Treasure Chest are sculptures, pottery, fabric, toys, masks, beads and weavings – all from Africa. These authentic items are used as teaching tools to engage library visitors. For example, the chest includes the “butterfly mask” used in planting rituals in West Africa; traditional and contemporary weights used to measure gold; and a mask depicting Chi Wara, a beast that is part antelope and part human strongly appeal to old and young alike. They each provide a connection that otherwise may never have been explored. When one looks at these beautiful pieces of artwork it’s almost like awakening a distant memory.
In the early 1990’s the library underwent a ten-month interior remodeling project that created a more accessible and inviting space. The bookstore shelving allows visitors to easily run their hands over the covers and spines of each and every book, make their selection with ease and discover a quiet corner to get lost in the words of a good story. Be encouraged to pay a visit to the library today. You will be in good company!
The MLK Library continues to be an important community builder and partner:
Monday – Thursday: 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Monday – Thursday: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. & 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday: 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday & Wednesday: 10:00 a.m.
Please be sure to visit the library for their Black History Month program:
Traveling North: A Historical Experience
Saturday, February 23rd at 1:00 p.m.
Come and listen to stories about the Underground Railroad, meet Addy, the American Girl and make a story quilt. This event is for ages 6-11.
Location & Hours of Operation
1600 East Long Street, Columbus, OH
Monday – Thursday: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p .m.
Friday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
PACT would like to extend a special thanks to Keisha Gibbs, General Manager & Mel Jones, Customer Service & Information Manager. We truly appreciate your time and donation of historical information about the MLK branch. Every day you and your staff provide an atmosphere that fosters literacy, learning and personal growth.