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Indiana News

St. Joseph County’s Main Library reopens to public this Sunday after two-year renovation

St. Joseph County’s Main Library has been closed since 2019 for a major renovation. Now, the 85,000 square foot downtown South Bend building has been completely reconfigured and reopens to the public this Sunday, Nov. 14.

On the first floor, there’s a new teen hangout space and an expanded children’s area with a tiny town for imaginative play — shops include an animal rescue, market, cafe and a replica bookmobile — and a big house for story time complete with a veggie garden and campfire out front.

There’s also a new reading room and art gallery space on the second floor and an expanded family and local history wing on the third.

It has digital microfilm readers and a preservation station where patrons can digitize VHS tapes, DVDs, film and photos.

And there’s a lot more natural light thanks to many big windows.

“The interior of the Main Library was entirely reconfigured and rebuilt to create new and more spacious areas for the public to enjoy,” library chief engagement officer Jennifer Henecke said. “Libraries are buildings filled with people, and that’s why we’re so excited to welcome our community back to their public library."

Melissa Gebhard, the library’s communications manager, agrees.

“There’s really something for everyone to do, no matter what their interests are,” Gebhard said.

“Everyone is welcome,” Gebhard said, this Sunday, Nov. 4 from 1 to 5 p.m. for tours, reopening festivities and kid-friendly activities.

At 2 p.m., there’s a free performance by the Thalea String Quartet. Library staff will be dressed up in costumes and pass out free copies of the “Creepy Carrots!” children's book before-hand.

“They’ll be reading and playing with that book, so children and families can follow along as they read the ‘Creepy Carrots!’” Gebhard said.

The project also added a courtyard and green space on top of the old staff parking lot. And across the courtyard, there’s a completely new, 38,000 square foot community learning center and 250-seat auditorium.

It houses two study rooms, public meeting spaces that local nonprofits and businesses can use and a space for video game tournaments. They’ll also be open for tours this Sunday, but both will then close until January to complete construction.

The renovated building also includes Studio 304, a workspace for artists complete with studios for recording and mixing music, facilities for printing art — including 3-D printers — and free access to the Adobe Creative Suite and other software programs.

“It’s all about the power of ‘and,’” library director Deb Futa said. “We imagined a Main Library as a destination space. And a public library. And a community learning center, where we can meet the needs of the community both now and in the future.”

The library is open every day of the week — 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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