In a new reading room at the renovated Warrenville Public Library, there are all the comforts of home: a dual-sided fireplace, cozy furniture and a view of the outdoors.
"It's welcoming. It's inviting. It's relaxing. It's the kind of place you want to go to get away," library Director Sandy Whitmer says.
It's still a place to work and study. But a $2.5 million, seven-month project has transformed the library into a "destination," where grown-ups can unwind, teens can socialize and kids can use their imaginations. Each group now has a clearly defined space.
"Our youth services department used to be just a miniature version of our adult services department," Whitmer says. "The colors were the same. The fabrics were the same. It had no true identity."
An entrance carved into a tree canopy sets off the redesigned children's department.
"We thought the trees were fitting because we are surrounded by so many natural areas here in Warrenville," Whitmer says.
That hometown pride extends into a new toddler's room. Youngsters can search for black-eyed susans -- the city's official flower -- and acorns -- the nut on the city's seal -- hidden throughout a mural painted on the walls.
"We wanted to make this into an area where kids could really use their imagination, explore (and) learn, with some comfy seats for the moms and dads, too," Whitmer says.
The exploring part comes into play on a Lego table and a ball and track system mounted to the wall that helps students learn about momentum and speed and concepts of physics.
Shorter book cases are arranged diagonally, and shelves face out so kids can browse titles by cover. Librarians organized the picture books according to category instead of alphabetically.
Pint-size patrons also can peer into a funhouse mirror attached to a book case at their height.
"We've actually seen the use of this collection increase by about 15 percent just in the first month we've had it arranged this way," Whitmer says.
The project added a teen lounge for students to collaborate in groups, play video games and draw on a dry-erase wall.
Elsewhere on the main floor are new conveniences. Tables have outlets and USB ports to charge devices. A meeting room has a dividing wall to offer more flexibility for programming. And a smaller checkout desk allowed the library to put in a new vending cafe in the lobby so patrons can enjoy coffee or a cold beverage.
In the winter, the remote-controlled, gas fireplace will give a homey feel in what the library calls a "dedicated quiet space."
The library typically draws 130,000 visitors a year, but staffers hope the welcoming vibe boosts attendance. The interior also feels brighter and deceptively bigger with new carpeting, paint and lighting.
"I think the question that I get asked the most is 'How many square feet did you add onto the building?' And I say, 'Zero,'" Whitmer says. "That's just re-sizing some of our collections and rearranging things."
The library funded the project with $600,000 in reserves and by borrowing $1.9 million.
"We're able to pay back the money we borrowed through our regular operating funds," Whitmer says.
The library will host a celebration with guided tours, a piano player and a balloon artist starting at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, July 16.
"Our architects did a great a job of listening to what we needed to accomplish in this building to make it work for our patrons, so to see it actually being used the way we intended is really rewarding," Whitmer says. "That's the best part."