BRADENTON -- A little before 10 a.m. Monday, Bradenton resident Antoinette Yagy was waiting outside the north entrance of Manatee County's Central Library. Like many other Manatee County residents, Yagy was waiting for the library's reopening after its three-month closure.
Yagy wanted to get a book her 12-year-old daughter needed for history class and when Yagy went online Sunday night, she saw the Central Library was reopening Monday and had the book.
"We use it a lot, especially during the summer and for things like this," Yagy said. "I've spent a lot of time here getting books for both me and my family."
The library, 1301 Barcarrota Blvd. W., closed Feb. 1 in conjunction with the $12 million chiller plant construction taking place in downtown Bradenton to cool the library and other buildings. The library was the first building connected to the chiller plant. Since the library was already scheduled to close for the cooling project, county officials decided to upgrade the 51,700-square foot, two-story library.
Neighborhood Services Department Director Cheri Coryea, who oversees the library division, said the three-month closure worked out well.
"It also got (residents) a chance to get out and see the other five locations that we have," Coryea said. "A lot of people didn't really know where those were so it was good for them."
During the closure, Bradenton resident Melissa Clark was taking her children to the Palmetto branch. Mon
day morning, Clark returned to their branch with 5-year-old Miranda, 3-year-old Kaelan and 1-year-old Sophia.
"We are most excited to see all of the changes and the librarians that we missed," Clark said. "We love the children's area and children's programs."
Upgrades, which cost about $350,000, include librarywide WiFi, better handicap accessibility, upgraded alarm system, electronic charging stations and individual and group study rooms. Public computers were moved from the second floor to the first.
"We are so excited to be able to offer the community so many resources, programs and work spaces," said Ava Ehde, county library services manager. "We really want to be a place where you can learn, grow and be inspired. I think they are going to be thrilled."
Kevin Beach, head of the Central Library and operations manager for the library system, said they also updated the library's collection and electronic resources. Beach said they added a rolling kitchen for cooking demonstrations among the improvements to make it a "destination here for the library."
"We are trying to think about the kinds of things the community needs and how we can provide those services by bringing in professionals to help people with those services," Beach said. "We have all the services that we had before. We just tried to make it in a little more attractive space and make things make a little more sense. We moved the young adult area up into the children's department so we actually have a youth services department now."
Palmetto resident Pat Schilling was among the first members of the public to see the renovations Monday.
Schilling said she wanted to get there when it opened because "we knew they made many changes and we were anxious to see the new library."
After seeing the renovations, Schilling said the library is "totally different," and she is impressed with the colorful decor.
"It is going to take a little getting used to," she said, adding the new charging stations will be beneficial. "We are just glad it's open again and we can start exploring."
Ehde said the library won't have an official grand opening because there will be future improvements.
"We want to keep the traditional stuff as well as the new technology and marry the two," she said. "We wanted to be flexible enough as we move into the future."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.