Lakewood Public Library’s Madison Branch To Undergo Historic Renovation

In the spring of this year, the Lakewood Public Library was poised to announce that Library Trustees were investing in an historic renovation of the Madison Branch to begin mid-2020. Then, the coronavirus appeared in the U.S. and all of us, in unique, but no less distressing ways were consumed by surviving a global pandemic. Today, as we continue to navigate these disquieting, uncertain times, the absence of community and the ability to gather in shared, public spaces to enjoy one another’s company, engage in civic dialogue, and enrich our singular perspectives through the world of words is palpable.

The relentlessness of this virus is staggering; yet, we choose to have hope and gratitude. In recognition of the value of the Library as an essential community asset, the Library Trustees will move forward with the Madison Branch renovation in 2021. The renovation will restore the original architectural charm of the “little library,” nestled in Lakewood’s vibrant Birdtown neighborhood, while ensuring the Branch remains responsive to community needs for generations to come.

The Lakewood Public Library has been proud to serve the Lakewood community with its two branch locations, Main and Madison, for over 100 years. The Library opened its doors on May 19, 1916 with only 10,000 books to offer the burgeoning streetcar community that built it. As the city grew, so did the Library, adding thousands of volumes of materials to serve the needs of patrons who flocked to Lakewood.

In 1921, a branch library on Madison Avenue was established to serve the city’s growing immigrant population and to provide library resources within walking distance of every Lakewood resident, a value of significant importance to the Library then and now. The small, brick building located near the corner of Madison and Clarence Avenues has been home to the Madison Branch since 1929, when Library Trustees purchased the property from the City of Lakewood for $1.00.

Adding to the value of the Madison Branch is its significance as a Walker & Weeks building. Many may know this architectural firm for their involvement in Carnegie Libraries as well as the construction of Severance Hall, in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood. With only three modest renovations in its nearly 100-year existence, Library Trustees seek to invest in a renovation of this vital community asset.

In early spring 2018, Library staff and Trustees sought community input to inform the renovation. Forty Library patrons participated in a facilitated discussion about the Madison Branch’s biggest assets and challenges. The event was publicized on the Library’s website and through social media. Patrons also had an opportunity to complete an online or paper-and-pencil survey about the Madison Branch and their preferences for its renovation. Community feedback was shared with HBM, the architectural firm leading the renovation.

Proposed renovations of the Madison Branch will maintain its beloved neighborhood feel, while improving the efficiency and usability of an historically significant building. Architectural renderings call for updating building systems for the 21st century—improving heating and cooling efficiency, addressing safety and ADA compliance, and increasing usable square footage, all while maintaining the building’s existing footprint.
Renovations will be financed by reserve funds that the Library has accumulated from years of conservative spending. Property taxes will not increase as a result of this project nor will taxpayers be asked to approve a levy on upcoming ballots. To date, proposed renovation plans have been approved by Mayor George and her cabinet, City Council, and the City’s Planning Commission and Architectural Board of Review.

The Library’s goal is to minimize service disruption during renovation. While the physical Branch location will be closed, patrons will be able to access print and electronic materials in an alternate location, 13427 Madison Avenue, during regular business hours (currently Monday thru Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.). The Library has also recently purchased Chromebooks for patrons to use in both Branch locations.

Renovation of the Madison Branch will strengthen the Library’s century-long tradition of excellence and service to the community, ensuring the Branch remains a public fixture for generations to come. To learn more about the renovation or make a donation to support the Library’s capital investment visit

Facts about the Madison Branch:

•The purpose of the Lakewood Public Library is to serve people of all ages, walks-of-life, and interests by selecting, organizing, preserving and making records of human experience, knowledge, ideas, information, insight and values widely accessible.

•The Lakewood Public Library is consistently ranked among the best in the nation, competing with large institutions far outside its weight class. Yet, the Library remains proud of its strong local connections, taking seriously its responsibility to be responsive to the needs of the Lakewood community.

•The Madison Branch serves everyone—circulating more children’s books than adult books and providing hours of Homework Help services, meeting space for recovery groups and a welcoming and safe space for newly arrived citizens.

Leaders Weigh in on the Renovations:

• From James Crawford, Lakewood Public Library Director: "For over ninety years, the Madison Branch has successfully served the residents of Lakewood, especially the residents of Birdtown. The Library is inviting the community's support in reinvesting in the Madison Branch and ensuring its continuing service to the Lakewood community."

• From Judy Grzybowski, Manager, Madison Branch: "It is time. We have been talking about this project and planning for years. We are not the Main Library and we won't become it after the restoration. We are the "little library" that could and can. Madison Avenue is flourishing and we want to be part of its development."

• From William C, Lakewood homeowner and founding member of Westside Agnostics, which meets in the auditorium and conference rooms of the Madison Branch: "It is inconceivable to me that the growth and overwhelming success of our Westside Agnostic AA movement would have happened without the amazing friendship, support, and cooperation (tolerance!) of the Madison Branch staff, Lakewood Police Security, and the careful attention to our unique needs by Branch Manager, Judy Grzybowski."


Elizabeth Anthony

Elizabeth Anthony

Lakewood resident and Lakewood Public Library Foundation Board Member

Volume 16, Issue 24, Posted 12:20 PM, 12.16.2020