Vernon Hills library being eyed for expansion

Less than six years after opening to public acclaim, Vernon Hills' Aspen Drive Library is being eyed for expansion.

Officials have developed six options to provide more space for library visitors - especially younger patrons, Cook Memorial Public Library District Director David Archer said.

The potential cost varies from proposal to proposal. They range from about $6 million to about $8.5 million, Archer said.

None of the options would require a tax-rate increase or a referendum on a ballot, he said.

"(Trustees) do not wish to increase the tax burden on residents," Archer said. "It is the philosophy of the board that they be good stewards of public funds."

A long-range planning committee will review the proposals Wednesday night.

The smaller of the two Cook Memorial facilities, Aspen opened in June 2010 at 710 Aspen Drive. The 20,000-square-foot library was part of a $14 million construction project that also included the expansion and renovation of the Cook Park Library in Libertyville.

Officials long have talked about making Aspen bigger because of its popularity with residents in the southern part of the district.

More than 257,000 patrons visited Aspen during the 2015 fiscal year, according to district statistics. They checked out nearly 450,000 items - about 29 percent of the district's overall circulation.

"It's gratifying to know that the public is supporting Aspen," Archer said.

Aspen's parking lot was expanded in 2015.

The children's department at Aspen is relatively small and always has been seen as a shortcoming. The demand for children's books and services is expected to grow because a recent demographic study predicted an increase of children 4 years old or younger in the southern part of the district, Archer said.

Additionally, a 2014 patron survey revealed Aspen's patrons want more space for displays of new and popular material, officials said.

"While we have a very nice library at Aspen, it is small, and that's something our patrons noticed," said library board member Nate Johnson, who leads the long-range planning committee.

The options to be reviewed Wednesday call for between 16,000 square feet and 20,000 square feet of additional space, Archer said. Some options include the construction of an unfinished lower level, while others envision a finished lower level.

Wednesday's committee meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Aspen Drive Library.

The committee could recommend one of the options that night, Archer said. Full board approval eventually would be required.

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