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St. Joseph County library to receive upgrade with an auditorium, courtyard, and more

WSBT 22 photo

The St. Joseph County Public Library in downtown South Bend is getting a major upgrade.

People got the chance to see designs for the $36 million plan tonight.

The Executive Director says this will make it the next generation's library.

The age of just going to the library to read or study is over. Now, it can be the hub for everyone to get the education or help they need.

It’s a fresh look for the library. The designs will have an auditorium, learning center, courtyard as well as a revamping the library itself.

"It’s no longer just books anymore,” said Ryan Snodgrass, excited about the library design. “It’s digital learning, it’s classrooms now, it’s community engagements and I think this renovation project will help bring what was done maybe 30 years ago back into the present.”

Executive Director Debra Futa says it's that idea that has pushed the library to expand.

“We are a place where people to come and be and we provide all kinds of meeting room space, and we are maxing out,” said Futa. “We have people requesting meeting rooms and doing trainings, but we don’t have the spaces for them.”

The new meeting rooms, which will be in the learning center, will allow more businesses and events to be held.

Futa says it's also a place for people to manage their daily life tasks.

“People live their lives online and if you don’t have a fast connection, you’re not able to a lot for the things people normally do in real life, apply for a job,” said Futa.

Futa hopes it will lead to more opportunities for the more than 800,000 people that use the library each year.

"There is always something going on here,” said Futa. “There is either a program, or a class, or our new smart box, which is an interactive museum-type space. There are all kinds of things and we have a lot more in mind. Once we get the space, we can do more.”

The biggest change inside the library will be the relocation of the children and teen sections. Those will be moved to the first floor and drastically expanded.

“Our children space is so tight, there is no room to really grow,” said Futa.

Futa wants this upgrade to make the library a destination place for the community.

"Having this being a really nice key stone kind of element downtown will be great,” said Snodgrass.

The architect says construction is expected to start early in 2020 and should take about 18 months to complete.

Futa says the next step is to find a new temporary location to move to during that construction, that way people can still use their services.

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