A terracotta sun screen and rain screen wraps around the addition to the Central Branch of the Grosse Pointe Public Library in Grosse Pointe Farms.

A terracotta sun screen and rain screen wraps around the addition to the Central Branch of the Grosse Pointe Public Library in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

Grand reopening at library’s Central Branch planned after parade

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 17, 2023

 The children’s area at Central has doubled in size.

The children’s area at Central has doubled in size.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — The Central Branch of the Grosse Pointe Public Library, at 10 Kercheval Ave. in Grosse Pointe Farms, is again open and serving patrons after a significant renovation and expansion project shuttered its doors for more than a year.

Accessible restrooms, an elevator, a dedicated space for the tool library, a teen room, an expanded children’s area and a drive-thru window for patrons to pick up or drop off library materials are among the changes.

“I’m really pleased with how it turned out,” Library Director Jessica Keyser said.

She said the project added about 6,700 square feet to the building.

Central reopened to visitors Oct. 31, but library officials are planning to celebrate formally this week. A public grand reopening ceremony will take place after the Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade, with a ribbon-cutting at 11 a.m. Nov. 24. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 24, there will be music, face-painting and entertainment at Central.

“It’ll be a nice, festive atmosphere for everyone,” Marketing and Programming Coordinator Mary Ann Short said.

Work started at the end of May 2022 and wrapped up in October 2023.

Everything that had been inside the building — including all the books, shelves, artwork and furnishings — needed to be removed for construction. As a result, Keyser said, it took a few weeks to move everything back.

“It was a big job,” Short acknowledged.

The expanded children’s area — something patrons said they wanted to see — features a couple of extras that parents will appreciate, such as a family restroom with a changing area, and a place to park strollers that also has cubbies for hats, coats and gloves.

“We doubled the size of the children’s room, so that’s been exciting,” Keyser said.

An interactive light board in that room is now twice as big as well, she said.

A drive-thru window off the parking lot provides a place where patrons can return or pick up items they’ve reserved online without having to get out of their vehicles.

“That was something we heard people wanted,” Keyser said. “Since the pandemic, it’s something a lot more libraries have started to add.”

When the GPPL branches were closed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the library started offering a service where patrons could reserve books and other library materials online and pick them up from the parking lot. The drive-thru is a way to continue offering that convenience. Although only Central has a pickup window, Keyser said patrons can reserve items online from any of the branches and pick them up this way.

In addition, because the GPPL has a special relationship with the Grosse Pointe Public School System, any books in their libraries can also be reserved and borrowed by GPPL cardholders, and vice versa. Keyser said the library website now has four options from which patrons can select when they want to reserve and pick up materials — any of the three library branches, and now the drive-thru window.

An area on the first floor that once housed some staff offices and the tool library has been turned into a space that can be used for library programs or borrowed by nonprofits in the Grosse Pointes for meetings. Keyser said nonprofits who’d like to use the space need to make reservations at least one week in advance; there’s a form on the library website for that purpose. She said library programs “do take precedence.”

Keyser said the safety of patrons and staff “is our top priority,” and to that end, renovations included the installation of a fire suppression system — something the original building didn’t have.

“That was a major undertaking,” Short said.

All building lighting has been converted to LEDs as well, Short said.

The second floor is now just office space for staff.

“That really makes it a lot more efficient for us,” said Keyser of all staffers being close to each other. Staff was formerly divided between the first and second floors.

For visitors and Fisher Road motorists alike, one of the most visible differences is the terracotta sun screen and rain screen that Keyser said wraps around the addition.

“Those help to absorb some of the solar gain in the summer months,” said Keyser, noting it will help keep the building cooler.

Keyser said all the designs were approved by a state historic preservation expert.

In 2021, the GPPL learned that the Central Branch had been named to the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Built in 1953, the library was designed by Bauhaus-trained architect and designer Marcel Breuer, who died in 1981. It’s one of the few libraries designed by Breuer, who also designed the Hunter College Library in New York and the Atlanta Central Public Library in Georgia.

“We’re dedicated to preserving the historic (character) of the building,” Keyser said. “We didn’t want to alter the key midcentury modern features.”

The work at Central was part of renovations at all three branches that cost roughly $12 million, Keyser said. It was paid for through bonds, support from the nonprofit Grosse Pointe Library Foundation, and a bequest from the Adele Huebner estate, which Keyser said served as the basis of a matching grant that was applied toward the expanded children’s section.

For more information, visit grossepointelibrary.org.