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posted: 3/5/2014 5:30 AM

Wauconda library set for $1.75 million renovation

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  • Wauconda Area Library patron Cara Silverman, with her children Mackenzie and Mason, said she is excited about proposed renovations in the children's department.

       Wauconda Area Library patron Cara Silverman, with her children Mackenzie and Mason, said she is excited about proposed renovations in the children's department.
    Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

  • Mason Silverman, 19 months, plays with cards in the children's department at the Wauconda Area Library.

       Mason Silverman, 19 months, plays with cards in the children's department at the Wauconda Area Library.
    Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

 
 

Already celebrating the Wauconda Area Library's 75th anniversary this year with programs and promotions, staffers and patrons are eagerly anticipating a $1.75 million renovation.

The construction of more quiet study rooms, a larger teen area, a new video-game area and interactive displays in the children's department are among the proposed improvements.

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The changes all will occur inside the building at 801 N. Main St. The 17-year-old facility won't be expanded, nor will the facade be affected by the work happening beyond the front doors.

"Library usage has changed from what it was when this building was designed almost 20 years ago," Director Tom Kern said in an email. "Even then we were planning for the future, but (we) would not have predicted the fantastic high-speed access people would have to the Internet. Now that they have that access, we need to accommodate some different needs."

The library board approved a master plan for the project Feb. 10. The district will borrow $1.2 million to pay for most of the work. Another $700,000 will come from savings.

In addition to construction costs, new technology purchases for the renovated building are expected to cost $150,000.

The project will not result in a tax-rate increase for property owners, officials have pledged.

The loan that led to the construction of the building in 1997 will be paid off in 2015, so residents should see a decrease in the library's portion of their tax bills, officials said.

Because the plan doesn't call for an addition, some existing space will be repurposed under the plan. For example, a high-tech classroom will be built in a space that once held the reference collection in the adult services area.

"We will still provide great access to physical books for many years to come, but we must also meet the demand for downloadable books, music and movies and teach our patrons how to use the broad range of technology that is now available to them," Kern said.

Elsewhere, two small meeting rooms will replace a public computer area in adult services. The computers will be moved to a main, open area.

And the current adult services reference desk and the circulation desk will be replaced by a new information hub near the main entrance where up to four employees can work.

In the children's department, young patrons will be able to enjoy multimedia displays, a Lego play area and a wall designed for chalk or marker use.

All the changes reflect the evolution of public libraries from book repositories to public gathering places and information-sharing centers.

"There is still great demand for popular, new materials," Kern said. "(But) many of our older nonfiction books ... no longer get any use. They are taking up space that we can put to better use for patrons who need to use the library in other ways."

Library patron Hailey Christoph, 14, was pleased to hear the area for teens will be expanded.

"A lot of people come here and there aren't enough spaces," she said. "It's usually crowded."

Wauconda resident Cara Silverman is excited about the project, too -- especially the changes proposed for the children's area downstairs.

"I think it's an awesome idea," she said. "It needs to be spruced up."

Construction could begin in October, and the work could take four months, Kern said. The library will remain open during construction.

"There will be no interruption in service, but it will be pretty noisy at times," Kern said.

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