Fremont library wants to expand patron space inside Mundelein facility

As Fremont Public Library officials develop plans to renovate a large second-floor storage area in the Mundelein facility, they're also trying to determine how to pay for the work that could cost as much as $3 million.

Several options are on the table, including cutting costs as a way to build the library's savings, a philanthropic campaign and corporate sponsorship, library Director Scott Davis said.

Davis is even open to the idea of using social media and crowdfunding platforms, such as Kickstarter, to raise cash.

“That's something we're going to have to look at,” he said.

One path not being considered is a tax-rate increase. The public's sizable anti-tax sentiment and continued talks in Springfield about a possible statewide property-tax freeze would make a referendum to ask for a tax hike a wasted effort, Davis said.

The area being eyed for expansion is an unfinished, 8,000-square-foot space on the library's southeast side. Informally known as the shell space, it's primarily used by the Friends of the Fremont Public Library group for its monthly used-book sales. A group called the North Central 'O' Gaugers Model Railroad Club has a large train layout there, too.

When the library was built at 1170 N. Midlothian Road in 2001, the space was deliberately not completed. The plan was to move into the space as patronage grew in the future.

“I've been asking for years, how do we know when the future is upon us?” said Davis, who was hired as director in 2003. “What's the tipping point?”

Davis believes the library has arrived at that point. The district population has grown by 50 percent since 2001, he said.

Additionally, library patrons want more space for meetings and working collaboratively. Multimedia labs and other public work spaces are sought-after amenities at many libraries.

Also, much of the library's carpeting needs to be replaced, which requires moving shelves and furniture.

“This presents an opportunity to relocate collections and repurpose space,” Davis said.

If the shell space is opened to the public as part of the main library, the adult fiction collection could move upstairs and join the nonfiction books, Davis said. Study rooms, seating areas and a specialized business center could be built upstairs, too.

On the first floor, areas for teens and middle schoolers could be expanded, Davis said. Study rooms and a room for crafts and other projects could be added as well.

Price estimates range from $1.5 million to $3 million, Davis said.

Now, it's a matter of finding the funds.

Davis likes the idea of a public fundraiser, down to the traditional plywood thermometer that would publicly show how much money has been raised over time. Corporate sponsorship is an intriguing idea, Davis said, but the district isn't home to any companies large enough to foot the bill.

A combination of approaches is the likely answer, he said.

Davis doesn't have a strict timetable but said he'd like to have a recommendation for the board by this fall.

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