Glen Ellyn Library plans $1.1M remodel of youth department

After a well-received renovation for the grown-ups, kids and tweens will see their own space at the Glen Ellyn Public Library get a $1.1 million makeover.

The changes are inspired by how youngsters use the first-floor area today, says Youth Department Director Renee Grassi. That means some attention to reading, of course, but also adding technology and more room for special programs - all within the existing footprint.

"I think just like our tagline - we're so much more than books - it's really true for youth departments, too," Grassi said. "So much of what we do is promoting literacy and promoting reading, but along with that is being a community space for families to come and engage with us and connect with each other."

On Monday morning, most kids weren't examining the book shelves. Instead, they played together, parked in front of computer screens and listened to storytime with their moms.

The four-month redo will continue to treat the department as a place for collaboration, Grassi said. A programming room will be expanded - doubling its capacity - and more tables will be installed for play. And picture books will be placed in bins to let new readers surf by cover and subject, not by the spines.

Middle schoolers not yet ready to graduate to the teen section upstairs will have their own room and a "sense of autonomy," Grassi said. Those students will move from some open seating in the department's rear to a room near the entrance with glass windows and a "more mature" paint job.

Overall, the department will feel friendlier, more vibrant. Besides the fresh paint and lighting, new carpeting will have "really fun patterns" to help guide kids through the space and to a service desk in the center, Grassi said.

"You'll see different sections of the space highlighted in zones, and that's reflected in the color palette as well," Grassi said.

With convenience in mind, the project will add more seats - from 86 to more than 100 - and outlets for kids and parents to charge their devices.

The department also plans to add five computers and another 3-D printer in January for patrons of all ages. Even before construction starts in September, students will be able to use two new MacBooks in the next month or two. By 2016, there should be two more.

At the end of August, the department will close up its current shop and move part of its collections to meeting rooms, where librarians will keep regular hours during the remodeling. Some events will be moved off-site to the village's Civic Center and park district facilities.

Though there will be less access to its services during the school year, the department didn't want to shut down during the summer reading program, its most popular offering, Grassi said.

But the closures will allow the library to stick to its goal of wrapping up the project in December. It comes on the heels of a renovation to the adult department that began in September 2014. While most of the work was done a month later, new lighting on the second floor was finished last January.

Both designs grew out of feedback from users in 2010, Grassi said.

"The community deserves a space that is up-to-date, fresh, new and reflects how they're using libraries today," she said.

  Wioleta Smotar of Glen Ellyn plays with her son Jacob, 3, and daughter Maggie, 5, in the Glen Ellyn Public Library's youth department, slated to get a four-month renovation. Mark Black/
  The project will add more seating, computers and outlets to the youth department. Mark Black/
  Some of the youth department's programs will be held off-site during the remodeling, expected to wrap up in December. Mark Black/
A rendering shows the renovated youth department, with more interactive play areas. Artist Rendering courtesy of Glen Ellyn Public Library
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