A newly completed, $1.3 million renovation of the Vernon Area Public Library didn't change the brick-and-glass facade of the building on Olde Half Day Road in Lincolnshire.
But the inside? Boy, oh boy -- you wouldn't recognize it as the same facility.
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"I've been teasing that I'm going to set up a 'Dramatic Library Renovation' cam at the front door to capture the 'Oh, wow!' looks as patrons enter the building," library spokeswoman Catherine Savage said in an email. "The difference will be immediately apparent to anyone who has seen the building before."
A self-service vending cafe, a quiet reading room with a fireplace, and dedicated areas for teens and young readers are just a few of the new amenities in the 50,000-square-foot building.
Group study space has been added, too. Even the restrooms have been given makeovers.
Some shelves were removed to promote customer flow and create more public areas. Walls were moved, too, allowing space that had been reserved for employees to be repurposed for the public.
"It looks fabulous," library board President George Goldstein said. "It's an entirely new experience."
Vernon Area serves about 42,900 residents from Lincolnshire, Prairie View, Buffalo Grove, Long Grove, Riverwoods and Vernon Hills, as well as parts of Vernon and Ela townships.
The library board approved plans for the renovation in January. It was the last of a slew of projects outlined in a 2010 facilities proposal.
The work didn't require voter approval or a tax-rate increase.
"After the (financial) crash, we didn't want to do anything to put undue burden on our taxpayers," Goldstein said. "We have to really be conscious of what's going on in the community."
Although most of the money for the project was included in the library's budget, some elements were funded through other sources.
The Friends of the Vernon Area Library group paid for new audiovisual equipment and a gallery hanging system in the meeting room.
Also, a private donor gave money for the fireplace in the reading room.
Opened in 1993, the library building is relatively young, but the industry has changed dramatically in those two decades, thanks to the Internet, growing demands for public gathering space at libraries, and changes in how youth services are presented.
The updates reflect those and other developments.
"We now have many of the amenities that our library users have been requesting for years," Director Cynthia Fuerst said.
The renovation plans were designed by Product Architecture & Design of Chicago. The work was overseen by IHC Construction Companies of Elgin.
Construction began in March and took 12 weeks. Patrons used the nearby building known as the library annex -- itself the library from 1979 to 1993 -- for the last few months during the construction project.
Working conditions in the smaller annex were crowded, Fuerst said, but employees made the best of it.
"We have staff members who began their careers in that building, and it was fun to hear their stories," Fuerst said in an email. "We are all very excited to be moving back to the main building."
Both buildings were closed to the public last week and over the holiday weekend as staffers moved books, equipment and other gear back into the main facility and prepared for customers.
"I think the community is really going to be pleased with what they see," Goldstein said.
Once the library reopens, its operating hours will follow the usual schedule. The facility will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
For more information, call (847) 634-3650 or visit vapld.info.