BRIDGMAN — “Welcome all to your newly created space, your Bridgman Public Library,” said new Library Director Dennis Kreps during a Friday, Nov. 22, open house. “I am pleased as punch to see so many folks here tonight.”

Shortly after Kreps took over from Gretchen Evans (who became director of the Paw Paw District Library), an extensive interior renovation project was launched, closing the library from late September through mid-October.

Kreps said the renovated library is designed to be “a community gathering space” and resource beyond what would be expected from a library.

Work done included: replacing the carpet “everywhere;” new paint; replacing the centrally located computer kiosk with computer tables in different sections of the library; opening up the middle space for events; adding more modern furnishings; upgrading and adding lighting; centralizing the book shelves; creating a teen space and a “maker space lite” area (the project coordinator was Rich Reach).

“The library was closed for about two and a half weeks when we were in the process of renovating … the staff and I were concerned, that’s two and a half weeks that you … were without your library and we really wanted to do something nice to welcome you back into the space,” Kreps said on Nov. 22.

He introduced staff members (Denise Malevitis, Deb Wimbush, Eden Morris, Carol Hazelgrove, Kay O’Brien, Monika Ansinn, Madison Daniel, Gloria Doroh, Mackenzie Tomlin, Desiree Mooney, Amy Abele, Melanie Schultz, and Tami Smith.

“These are the folks that make your library what it is … who day in and day out. Provide excellent service, do great programs, lots of outreach into the community.”

Also recognized were members of the Library Board — Ken Huff, John Wilk, Dorothea Crocker, Sue Collins, Sue Janoskey, Randy Hill, Aaron Noll and Liz Bogue.

“They’re the vision, they’re the folks who are out in the community who support efforts like (the) renovation,” Kreps noted.

Friends of the Library President Judith Ray also took part in the open house. Kreps said the volunteer group made a donation to support the renovation and helps with many other projects and programs.

He said the renovation project began to take shape when Evans, now director at the Paw Paw District Library, was still in Bridgman. He said members of the community were brought into the strategic planning process.

“I love the way it looks, so modern and so fresh. It’s beautiful.” Evans said. ‘There are endless possibilities for programming in here.”

“I miss Bridgman of course, but Paw Paw’s very nine too.”

Kreps said the Bridgman Library is now part of an initiative that has a social work intern from Western Michigan University’s School of Social Work who is here every Wednesday afternoon (from 4 to 8 p.m.)”

The Ed Bagatini Trio entertained during the open house.

Library clerk Monika Ansinn (who lined up the group to perform) said the jazz trio consists of Ed Bagatini (owner of Bagatini’s Music in St. Joseph) on trombone, Dino Jackson on French Horn and Tim King on the stand-up bass.

Kreps said the new-look interior will be a work in progress, and officials are still determining how to use open space on the walls and other options.

“We encourage people to come and talk to us once they’ve had an opportunity to experience the space.”

He said the large open space in the central part of the library can accommodate large groups of people, “so the hope is that we will be able to start hosting larger-scale programs … than we could accommodate previously.”

A Halloween Party for kids and the Nov. 22 Open House have already filled the renovated central area with people.

Kreps said he has spent the better part of the last month out in the community meeting people, visiting the schools, and attending Bridgman City Council, Lake and Chikaming township board meetings.

“I’ve not talked to a single person in the community who isn’t excited about partnering with us, collaborating with the library on projects. It seems to be a very service-oriented community.”

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