Families who plan to become regulars at the Aurora Public Library's new Express Center crowded outside the facility's doors Friday afternoon awaiting its grand opening ceremony.
The Express Center, at 1100 Church Road, has been open since Sept. 17, but library officials held an event Friday to welcome the public to a space with five computers, e-readers for check-out and a small but varied collection of books, DVDs and magazines.
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"We're very excited; we live right down the street," said Candi Vizcarra of Aurora, who walked to the grand opening Friday with her 6-month-old in a stroller and her other three children, ages two to 11, by her side. "We often come just for our weekly reading books."
Library Director Eva Luckinbill said the Express Center is the first visible sign of the library's systemwide improvement plan, which includes a new main library downtown, at least one other satellite facility similar to the Express Center and technology upgrades. The plan recently received financial approval from the city of Aurora, which took out a $19.2 million loan to fund the project. A $10.8 million state grant the library is likely to receive should complete the project's $30 million total.
The Express Center is meant as a neighborhood hub for library services on the city's northeast side, said Kathleen Butzen, outreach services manager.
"A lot of patrons have been coming by here and checking out books they reserved from other locations," Butzen said. "It's not meant to be a full-blown branch."
Patrons can use the space to search for library materials, do homework or browse the Internet.
Three computers are designated for Internet use, while one is a word processor and another searches the library's catalog, Butzen said.
The Express Center building has belonged to the Aurora Public Library for more than 10 years, but until this summer it housed offices for circulation and Bookmobile operations instead of public space, Luckinbill said.
After about $50,000 of renovations, new shelving, furniture and electronics, the space has been transformed into a public location that gives the library "more presence out in the community," she said.
"This is perfect, because children can come here on bicycle or they can walk," Luckinbill said. "It's right in the middle of a residential area."
At least 60 people, many of them young children accompanied by a parent, attended the grand opening with a bilingual storyteller and free pencils, folders and library resource information.
Alderman Abby Schuler, whose ward includes the Express Center, said she hopes residents get plenty of use out of the new library location.
"It's a place you can come and use the library facilities that's not as far away as downtown," Schuler said.
The Express Center's hours are from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday and Thursday; 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. It is closed Sundays.