Warren-Newport Public Library has entered a new era of service for the 67,000 Lake County residents living within its district.
That was certainly evident Sunday as the newly remodeled Gurnee facility brimmed with activity during a grand reopening celebration marking the completion of a 14-month, $8.7 million project.
"Aside from the landscaping, everything is finished," library spokeswoman Jan Marsh said. "It's truly a functional and attractive building."
The crowd on hand for a brief presentation ran the gamut from elected officials to elementary school kids eager the win prizes at the end of a library-wide treasure hunt.
The dedicated teen section known as the Vault also proved a popular attraction. The 1,400-square-foot space wasn't quite ready when the library, located at 224 N. O'Plaine Road, opened its doors in October after closing for a month during the final phase of construction.
Reference associate Jessica Stalker said it's taken a while for students to trickle into the teen-only area, but they're warming up to the room, which includes several computers, video gaming consoles and a lounge area.
Woodland Middle School seventh-grader Zachery Gleason said he's a fan, joking that his younger sister, Danielle, isn't yet allowed.
"No little kids can come in and annoy you," he said.
Other upgrades resulting from the expansion and renovation are six group study rooms, a new roof, energy efficient lighting and a 4,000-square-foot meeting room. An environmentally friendly rain garden will be installed later this year. The building grew by about 4,500 square feet to a total of 58,500 square feet.
Library Director Stephen Bero, who got choked up when thanking the staff, said Warren-Newport has come a long way since starting bookmobile service in 1972. Next year will be the 40th anniversary of when library doors opened in rented space near a bank at routes 21 and 132.
During the renovation project, the library utilized area businesses, a nearby church and even a supermarket to maintain service and programming. Bero has said it was so well-received that the library will continue its off-site events.