BRIDGMAN — The Bridgman Public Library has a new director, and he has arrived at a busy time.
Dennis Kreps succeeds Gretchen Evans (who is now director of the Paw Paw Library) less than a month before the start of an extensive interior renovation project.
The project (scheduled to close the library from Sept. 20 through Oct. 5) includes: replacing the carpet “everywhere;” new paint; replacing the centrally located computer kiosk with computer tables in two sections of the library (the number of computers won’t be reduced) to open up the middle space for events; adding more modern furnishings; upgrading and adding lighting; centralizing the book shelves; creating a teen space designed to be a comfortable place to hang out that will include collections aimed at that age group; and a “maker space lite” area featuring access to services such as Adobe programs and 3-D printing.
“I’m really pleased about this renovation because I think it’s going to open up more space where we can do more programs here,” Kreps said.
The annual Friends of the Library sponsored Community Wide Garage Sale also takes place soon (moved from mid May to Sept. 13 and 14).
Kreps said new this year for the Sale are tables in the library parking lot that can be rented out by sellers.
Kreps said he has “worked in libraries of all shapes and sizes” including public libraries and an academic library in Indiana.
In Kalamazoo (where he has lived for the past 15 years) Kreps said he first was (for 9 years) librarian and archivist at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (a visual arts museum that has its own permanent collection, hosts exhibits, includes a community based art school and has a lending library.
He then served as director of the Richland Community Library for five years. For the last year he has split his time between the Kalamazoo and Portage Public Libraries, primarily at reference desks and also in the area of programs.
Kreps, who started on Aug. 21, said he got to spend some time with Evans before she left for Paw Paw Library (she was at the Bridgman facility for six years).
“I think she made good connections in the community and really established the library,” Kreps said, adding that he also knew Evan’s predecessor, Carole Richardson.
“It’s really a gift to come to a library that has those well-established connections in the community already,” he said.
Kreps said he is very interested in making sure the Bridgman Library is an integral part of the community. He sees libraries as one of the last bastions of “real, healthy Democracy” and a “great socio-economic equalizer.”
“We’re here to serve everyone ... It doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is.”
He said nearly everyone knows what a library basically does, and with modern technology more resources can be provided (access to the Internet, WiFi, printing services, a variety of free offers programs for all ages, a core partner in early literacy training for children, and a conduit to free online-based services such as Overdrive — which offers access to thousands of eBooks and eAudio titles — just to name a few examples).
Kreps noted that the free WiFi signal at the Bridgman Library is on 24 hours a day.
The library also is a physical place where people can meet informally or formally.
Ideas he has include inviting artists and musicians into the library to provide a connection to the arts and have the library be a community gathering place.
Kreps said he has been exploring the community to get a feel for what is important to area residents and what they want the library to be.
“It’s really a significant goal of mine to have the library be an accessible, comfortable, fun place for people,” he said.