EMPIRE — The Glen Lake Community Library is celebrating the first phase of expansion and renovation plans for its current building on Front Street.

The library closed on Saturday for a week to move to its temporary home in the former Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate building on M-22 just south of town and will open there on April 15. It has leased the commercial bright lime-green building for a year to allow for construction on the expansion.

The “Limebrary” will house a core collection of books and media for children, teenagers and adults. Wifi access will be available, mostly via laptop, along with a copier, fax, scanner and wireless printer.

The outpouring of community support for the expansion has been overwhelming, said library director David Diller.

“We are excited to announce that over $1.8 million in donations has been raised, with additional gifts still arriving,” he said.

Six years ago, planners predicted the need for additional space for the library, which serves a census population of about 3,600 in Glen Arbor, Empire and Kasson townships. Their vision for future growth led to the purchase of property adjacent to the library. In early 2018 the "Expanding our Library — Building our Future” capital campaign was launched. In just over a year, the library raised 1.3 million, building on a $500,000 capital needs endowment.

Donations from individuals, families and businesses have poured in, ranging from 1$0 dollars to $200,000, including a $100,000 gift from Friends of the Library.

The Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, the Michigan Council for Art and Cultural Affairs, Rotary Charities and other foundations also donated to the cause. A surprise $79,000 was raised in February through the efforts of “The 28K in 28 Days” Miller Family Challenge.

“The generosity of our supporters for the challenge and throughout the capital campaign has been nothing short of remarkable,” Diller said. The outpouring of support has allowed the project to move forward earlier than originally planned, he added.

He expects that with the return of seasonal residents to the area over the summer the library may see additional support.

Hallmark Construction will start work on the library expansion in April with a ground-breaking ceremony scheduled for May 4. While most of the existing collection will be placed in storage, requested titles are available through MelCat, the state-wide interlibrary loan service, Diller said.

“We know that access to new materials is important to our patrons,” he said. “Thanks to a designated collection budget, we’ll continue to provide a steady stream of new materials at the interim location.”

The move into the temporary digs will be handled by Corrigan Moving. The company specializes in moving offices, schools and businesses.

Preparing for the move, however, is hard work and the library’s two staff members are relying on the efforts of the many volunteers who’ve pitched in to help.

“Volunteers have helped tremendously. They’ve been here for the last month. We have our regular volunteers, but they’ve put in a lot of hours over the past month to help with inventory and with packing books. We couldn’t have done without them while trying to operate as normal,” said Assistant Librarian Janette Berkshire.

The volunteers also will help set things up at the new location while staffers stay on top of the normal running of the library, she said.

The renovation and expansion of the existing building will take a full year to complete. When the library moves back across town the building will offer much needed additional space, increasing in size from 3400 square feet to 5800 square feet.

Diller said it will look like and operate as a completely new building, housing a larger collection of books.

“The focus of this new design is to make it more of an open and engaging community space, a facility that can really be used by individuals and groups, both formal and informal,” he said.

The library’s current seating capacity is limited with just one meeting room that accommodates up to 15 people. The new library will provide a new meeting room with the capacity for up to 50 people. Patrons also will have access to a private study room.

The floor layout will feature an open design with a comfortable reading lounge located at the front end of the library near the magazines. The addition of a large gas fireplace with an “Up North” woodsy, contemporary design will offer readers an inviting place to sit during winter months.

Diller said the architects have designed a library with a distinctive civic presence which fits the village of Empire’s commercial and residential neighborhood. The library’s entrance will be easily accessible from Front Street, replacing its current location along the narrow side of the building.

The library has been in the old Empire fire hall since 1997. Diller said it’s been a great home but it’s time for change. “In all honesty, it’s a little bittersweet. It’s hard to believe 20 years have gone by already.”

He said a few people were surprised at the idea of redesigning such a nice space and that first-time visitors leave impressed by what the facility has to offer such a small community.

But the area's popularity as a vacation spot means library traffic doubles in the busy summer months, making a larger building important.

Diller says extensive landscape redevelopment will mark the final phase of the project.

“We had envisioned a separate donation effort,” he said. "Right now, the landscaping is slated for next year and beyond and will include the front and back space of the library, a critical part of the overall scheme.”

In preparation for the move, the library is inviting patrons to stock up on books and media for the coming year. Materials that would otherwise be moved to storage are available to check out on a long-term loan basis through April 6.

Surplus furniture, shelving and equipment also can be viewed at the library and "purchased" by donation on a “first come, first served" basis. The items can be picked up April 8-13.

The grand re-opening of the Glen Lake Community Library is expected in early summer 2020.

For more information, contact the library at 326-5361 or inf@glenlakelibrary.net.