Spring Lake District Library’s $1.7M refresh is designed to ‘encourage sense of community’

For its 20th anniversary this year, the Spring Lake District Library is getting a refresh that will add more meeting rooms, a podcast studio, a place for teens to hang out, young children to get creative, and a sensory quiet room.

The facelift reflects how the 35,000-square-foot library is adapting to serve the changing needs of the community in a post-COVID world.

“We're definitely thinking outside of that book box. What else does our community need that we can provide?” says Director Maggie McKeithan, who has been at the library since 2019.

“There are so many ways that we can access resources now, and our purpose is to really connect people with resources. Sometimes that's books, and sometimes that's community.”

The goal is for the library to be “a place where you can meet up with people,” she says. “You can come to engage in programs to learn things. It’s sort of the community's living room. We really want to encourage that sense of community and belonging.” 

Spaces for many purposes

The new teen space is being added to the library’s adult side. It’s a place where teens can hang out after school, with booth seating where they can do homework or play chess. 

The storytime room will become a makerspace where children can get messy doing activities or experiments. 

“There's really no other game in town for places to play in the wintertime when it's cold or when it's raining. We just want to be that place in our community where families and caregivers can bring their kids for indoor play,” McKeithan says. 

A podcast studio will double as a study room when not being used for recording. 

“We'll have all the equipment that you need if you want to record a podcast. It’s just a little bit more soundproof than the rest of the rooms that we have,”  McKeithan says. 

The most unusual feature may be the Snoezelen Room, a sensory quiet room where library patrons of any age who are feeling overstimulated can step into a quiet space. It has a rocking chair and a calming blue light that can be turned on when desired. 

The Dutch name is intended to pique curiosity. 

“We are calling it that because we want people to stop and go ‘Wait, what's that room?’ We thought if we call it a quiet room, then people will think you have to be quiet in there,” McKeithan says. 

“But it's kind of the opposite. That's where you go when you're melting down and you need a minute, or it's where a mom goes when she needs to breastfeed. It’s just a place where the lights can dim and you can have a little time so that you can come back out, interact with us.”

Fundraising continues

The changes are the outgrowth of strategic planning sessions the library did in 2020. A committee of community members, library board members and staff formed a plan based on the results of community surveys, and the library then hosted feedback sessions.

Most of the funding for the $1.7 million project is coming from $1.1 million the Spring Lake library board has put aside over the years. The rest has come through grants and donations. Grants have come from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, the Library of Michigan, and the Michigan Arts and Culture Council. 

“We've also had some really wonderful private donors,” McKeithan says. “We're over 90% towards our fundraising goal, and we're doing a big push for Giving Tuesday to try to get us to over that goal. Donations can be made to the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation for the Spring Lake District Library Renovation Fund.” 
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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.