NEWARK – Construction is underway for the long-awaited expansion of the Charles B. Phillips Public Library in Newark.
The 2,200-square-foot library building at 6 N. Jackson St. will more than double in size with an addition that will wrap around two sides of the existing structure.
Work is scheduled to be complete by the start of September, with the new space expected to be open to the public at the end of that month.
The library is in many ways the heart of the small Kendall County community, providing not only essential library services but also one of the few places for the public to gather.
For the library’s popular programs and other meetings, the back room housing children’s books is pressed into service by moving the shelving out of the way to accommodate the 60 or so people who often show up.
One of the key components of the expansion plan is the creation of a 985-square-foot community meeting room designed to accommodate about 100 people, Library Director Lynette Heiden said.
The other crucial addition to the library’s facilities will be public restrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Plans also call for a sun room that will provide library patrons with a quiet space to read, a new office for the director and a storage room.
The $1.5 million, 2,600-square-foot addition has been in the planning stages for several years.
Library board members are proud that the entire project is being financed without a tax increase.
Instead, funding will come from a state grant, a 20-year loan and money the district has saved up over the years.
“Lynette and the board have been very frugal on the spending because we did not want to raise the taxes or go to a referendum,” library board President Dave Drew said.
Heiden, the library director since 2004, secured a $316,225 grant through the Illinois State Library. Using careful financial management, the library has amassed another $300,000 for the project.
The bulk of the funding will come from an $802,000 loan through the local Heartland Bank.
One reason the library will be able to service the debt is that the rural library district expanded its geographic boundaries after a successful 2016 referendum.
The expanded district includes Lisbon and even a small portion of La Salle County. The district also includes Millbrook and a small portion of Millington.
Heiden said the typical homeowner in the district pays about $130 to $150 a year in property taxes to the district.
The library now serves about 2,000 residents, who each year check out 20,000 books, DVDs and other materials in the course of 10,000 visits, Heiden said.
“This is the most popular place downtown,” Drew said.
The library building was constructed in the early 1960s from a bequest by Charles B. Phillips, for whom the library at Aurora University also is named.
At that time, the public library was operated as a volunteer project by the local women’s club. It was not until 2002 that the library district was formed.
Barb Sucich was one of the original library trustees and she continues to serve on the board as treasurer.
“The addition is going to give people more reasons to come to the library,” Sucich said. She chuckled at the thought of people she sees at area stores renting videos, when they could check them out for a longer period and without cost at the library.
Other board members include Karen Bruenig, Mark Oldenburg, Larry Stanford, Michael Merline and Joshua Brown.
The construction project includes the installation of new water and sewer service lines into the building to handle the new, larger restrooms.
The existing library consists primarily of the adult services area, circulation desk and director’s office at the front of the building. At the back is the youth services area, a storage room and the restroom.
With the expansion, the current director’s office will be turned into a workspace and the restroom reserved for the staff.
The addition will change the appearance of the building’s facade, with the sun room projecting toward the street. Behind it, along the south side of the building will be the community meeting room.
The bathrooms, storage area, mechanical systems room and director’s office will be located behind the existing building, where a storage shed has already been demolished to make way for the expansion.
Fawnia Stanford is the head of children’s programming and she will be happy to have the new meeting room available for the summer reading program and other activities.
“It can get quite loud with the little ones sometimes,” said Stanford, who will no longer need to move the book cases in the youth services room to accommodate events.
Other staff members include Melissa Turner, who handles marketing and adult services, and Lea Anne Stoughton, who works in circulation.
Source: The Daily Chronicle