Cook Park Library ready to celebrate 5th anniversary of renovation

Cook Park Library patrons can celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Libertyville facility's multimillion-dollar renovation at an upcoming open house.

Behind-the-scenes tours, an all-ages story time and other activities are planned for the Saturday, Jan. 9, event, which will run from 10 a.m. to noon at the library, 413 N. Milwaukee Ave.

And what's a birthday party without some cake? Slices will be served.

The library was renovated and expanded as part of a $14 million Cook Memorial Public Library District project that included the construction of the Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills. The Libertyville site was closed for more than a year during the work, reopening to the public on Jan. 8, 2011.

The renovation brought public meeting rooms, self-checkout stations, a digital lab and other amenities to the library, which served more than 310,000 people during the 2015 fiscal year.

The biggest piece of the project was the addition of an 11,000-square-foot children's wing.

"The expansion was so necessary and has been so greatly received by the community," Cook Memorial board President Bonnie Quirke said.

The project was historic politically, not just architecturally.

Although the Cook Park Library long had been seen as too small for the growing community, Cook Memorial voters rejected three expansion plans. Residents essentially were divided along geographic lines, with Libertyville residents facing off against Vernon Hills residents when it came time to vote.

But in 2007, administrators and the library board came up with a plan to expand services in both communities without requiring a tax-rate increase - and thus didn't require a referendum on a ballot.

Once the projects were done, the politics disappeared.

"With the building of Aspen and the expansion of Cook Park, the community realized that the district only has the patrons' best interests at heart," Quirke said. "Once we got past that, we began to serve the district, rather than politics."

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