New wing of Dowagiac District Library ready to serve its community

Published 8:51 am Tuesday, December 15, 2020

DOWAGIAC — The Dowagiac District Library may be under construction, but its brand new wing is open for patrons wanting to use its services.

The expanded wing of the library, 211 Commercial St., is currently open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Patrons are asked to wear a mask upon entry, and only 15 patrons are allowed in the wing at one time due to COVID restrictions.

The first floor includes a community room, a kitchen area, study rooms and a quiet reading area.

Currently housing books that will be moved to the original wing once its renovated, the community room will be available for reservations and the kitchen area will have a beverage vending machine. Library Director Matt Weston said no food will be allowed inside the library.

“We could have groups in the community room for an after-hours event or where there’s maybe only one or two people in the building,” Weston said. “We’re going to set this up to where we could give a rental group a key fob to access this part of the building and not the rest of it, so we won’t have to monitor this section of the building. They would be able to access this room and use our kitchen area on the other side, which is where the vending machine will be.”

The first floor also features one of two computer stations the library will host.

“We have three computers operational right now,” Weston said. “This is designed for and will have six computers, but right now we only have three for spacing. We’re going to have another table of eight in a space currently undergoing renovation. Once that’s ready, we will have 14 computers total.”

The back of the extended wing offers guests a fireplace area to read by, as well as a wall that will be dedicated to community artworks. The library’s audiovisual section will also be located in the extended wing.

The back of the original wing connects with the extended wing to create a wall inside of the building. When the temporary construction walls are removed, there will be an entrance space on both floors that connects both wings.

“There was a parking lot here before,” Weston said. “We decided to keep the back wall, and they replaced its windows, so this wall will now be on the inside of the building.”

Above the staircase that leads to the second floor is a skylight that brings in natural light to the library. The second floor is where youth services are located. The floor features children’s books, reading areas and a room dubbed the “SPARK Room” for children’s programs.

“This room has flooring that is more heavy-duty,” Weston said. “They can do all kinds of crafts and things here and we have a projector system in here where we can show kids movies and educational content here.”

Once finished, the original wing will house the teen and local history sections of the library, as well as study rooms.

“We’ll have three different rooms that people can reserve for study groups,” Weston said. “Adults will also be able to reserve these rooms for whatever work they need to do.”

According to Weston, one of the study rooms will feature the technology to host conferences.

“If you have a small business meeting or something in the area, you could reserve that room and have your meeting there,” he said. “I don’t think there are any other conferencing rooms around here for the general public. We get a lot of online business-type folks that come in for our Wi-Fi, so we made sure to put that in there so that they could have business meetings there.”

Weston expects the construction process to be complete by the end of March, with a grand opening ceremony hosted soon after, pandemic permitting.

“We’re excited,” Weston said. “It has been a long process but we think the library will be better equipped to serve our community.”