Lombard to celebrate opening of new Helen Plum library this weekend

Lombard's public library will open a new chapter Saturday when patrons get their first look inside a modern, two-story building at the gateway into the village's downtown.

The new Helen Plum Library will greet visitors with floor-to-ceiling windows, cutting-edge technology, an auditorium and a patio. A cozy corner of the second floor has a fireplace and a display case featuring the library's history.

"We feel that it's just going to be one delightful discovery after another in this building," spokeswoman Sue Wilsey said.

Library leaders expect "quite a big crowd" for the long-awaited opening of the 50,000-square-foot building along Main Street. A ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday morning will launch a weekend celebration filled with scavenger hunts, giveaways and a "mini Taste of Lombard."

"We'll have some swag available, some really lovely custom bookmarks that we had created," Wilsey said. "There's a tote bag that our foundation also sponsored, and we'll have some other fun items for kids and teens to take away as mementos of this wonderful grand opening weekend."

If patrons simply need to unload their reading stack or get some work done, the library will be ready to serve the public at 9 a.m. Saturday. Patrons who use a drive-up window to drop off or collect materials also will receive a special gift, Wilsey said.

"We're just thrilled to have the opportunity to finally share this project that we've been working on for the past several years," she added.

Helen Plum officials broke ground in June 2021. But it took years of planning and debate to get the project off the drawing board, and the saga unfolded like a suspense tale.

Voters in November 2016 approved a property tax increase to replace the old Maple Street library. Helen Plum trustees originally planned to build new on the same site next to Lilacia Park, but officials struggled to create a proposal that could pass muster with park district commissioners.

Their opposition stemmed from concerns that a taller building would diminish the beauty of Lilacia Park and deprive the floral display of sunlight.

The library eventually decided to tear down the shuttered Mr. Z's supermarket to make way for the new building. The total project was budgeted at about $26.4 million. Once construction was underway - in the midst of the pandemic - supply chain issues emerged.

"We just had some terrific coordination and creativity to work around those types of things and get where we need to be," Wilsey said.

The end result is an "incredible community gathering space." A reception area called "The Hub" has wood ceilings, art exhibition space, a vending cafe and views of the landmark Maple Street Chapel. The first floor contains an early literacy center dubbed the "Robin's Nest." Teens will be invited to play video and board games in a second-floor space of their own.

This weekend, a large meeting room will act as a welcome center near the parking lot entrance. Patrons can pick up a map and then take a self-guided tour around the building. Library cardholders who complete the scavenger hunt will be entered into a prize drawing.

Swag bags and refreshments will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Righteous Kitchen, Gnarly Knots, Rainbow Cone, Lilac Bakery and The Donut Experiment will serve small bites.

"It's just going to be exciting for everybody that has followed the story to finally see this come to fruition," Wilsey said, "and see this beautiful building that lies in the heart of Lombard on Main Street."

The historic Maple Street Chapel can be seen from "The Hub," a gathering space inside the newly constructed Helen Plum Library. Courtesy of Helen Plum Library
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.