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Article updated: 8/10/2012 8:59 PM

Arlington Heights Library hopes to become 'community hub'

Arlington Hts. library to add cafe, computer assistance area

The library will have a new “living room,” where visitors can relax in front of a fireplace.

The library will have a new "living room," where visitors can relax in front of a fireplace.

 

Rendering courtesy of the Arlington Heights Memori

The library is expanding its computer assistance section, adding a conference room for business meetings.

The library is expanding its computer assistance section, adding a conference room for business meetings.

 

Rendering courtesy of the Arlington Heights Memori

The new “marketplace” will be the heart of the remodeled library, with a vending cafe and popular books on display.

The new "marketplace" will be the heart of the remodeled library, with a vending cafe and popular books on display.

 

Rendering courtesy of the Arlington Heights Memori

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By Marie Denecke

Arlington Heights Memorial Library is about to undergo its biggest makeover in decades, getting a renovation that will change its looks dramatically.

The board is expected to approve the plans at a meeting Tuesday.

"As soon as we'll have the authorization, we will start," library Executive Director Jason Kuhl said.

The $2.8 million renovation will turn the library into a more organic, open and welcoming "community hub" -- much like today's bookstores -- with a cafe, comfortable seating and a section devoted to new, popular books. None of the current collections will disappear, but the remodeling recognizes that people who come to the library today spend more time there than in years past, Kuhl said.

"The way people use the library now is different," he said. People are still checking out books -- with 2.6 million checkouts yearly, the Arlington Heights library is one of the busiest in the country.

However, other core uses of the library have dropped immensely -- for example, questions asked in person at the reference desk -- while other services are growing, especially computer classes that had a 170 percent enrollment increase last year.

According to Kuhl, the $2.8 million will come out of the library's current funds, and property taxes will not be increased. "We have known about this for years, and we have planned carefully," Kuhl said.

The remodeling will be finished around mid-April 2013. The library will not close during the work, although some areas will be closed off and their collections moved temporarily. For about one week, the drive-up window and book drop-off will not be available as the underground parking lot is repaved.

News and announcements about relocations and the renovations in general will be published on the library's website and on signs in the building.

The area where DVDs and CDs are currently situated will be turned into a "marketplace," where new and popular books will be displayed.

"We want people to come and discover new authors," Kuhl said. Here visitors will also find nonfiction books of popular categories such as gardening, cooking or fitness. A vending cafe and an open area for programs or displays will finish off the marketplace.

Back in the northwest corner, where big windows let in the light and frame the Arlington Heights Historical Museum across the street, the library will get its "living room," Kuhl said, with a fireplace and lounge seating, funded by the Friends of the Library. This is also where the magazine section will move, which is currently on the second floor.

"A lot of people didn't even know we had it," Kuhl said. Library offices will move to the second floor.

"We want to stand side by side with our community," Kuhl said, which is why the help desk will be reshaped to make it more accessible.

The checkout desk will be reduced in size, as more people are using self-checkout. Instead of standing behind counters, "our staff will be out, interacting with the people," Kuhl said.

The computer assistance area will be remodeled and complemented by a conference room..

As more people don't work in offices anymore or have started home businesses, they are using the library to work, research and meet clients, Kuhl said. Currently, visitors can use four small meeting rooms at the library, but 14 will be available at the end of the project.

Lastly, the library "is also a place for fun," Kuhl said, mentioning the new teen area with an adjacent art studio and comfortable seats for the teenagers to sit together and chat.

To stay on top of the changes, signs will be put up in the library in advance and visitors should check the library website, ahml.info, for announcements.

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