Round Lake Area Library seeks voter approval to borrow $36.4 million for new building

Project would add about $346 to the annual property tax bill for a median-valued home.

Round Lake Area Public Library supporters say their library building on Hart Road just west of Route 134 has been strapped for space for years as the population it serves has more than tripled since it was built in 1988.

How best to address the issue has been the question.

After studies, assessments and analysis, library officials say a new facility about double the size at a different location is the most cost-effective answer and offers a greater value per tax dollar than any alternative.

“After weighing findings, evaluating the current building and site, estimating replacements, and considering feedback, the most beneficial solution was evident — constructing a new building,” according to information on the library’s website.

On March 19, voters will be asked whether the district should borrow $36.4 million by issuing bonds to fund a new building and related costs. The proposed location is just north of downtown Round Lake on property that will be made available by the village at no cost.

What’s not stated in the ballot question presents a challenge for supporters: The annual property tax paid to the library would nearly double.

According to district figures, the owner of a home valued at $228,200 — the district median — would pay an additional $345.84 in annual property taxes if the measure passes. The current bill for that home is $382.90.

Users realize the building is stagnated, said Jim DiDinato, executive director of the Round Lake Area Public Library District.

“A lot of people say they’re excited (about a new facility) — the building is way too small,” DiDinato said. “The only hang up we've heard are people concerned about the taxes.”

Many people don’t realize they have to vote on the measure, he added.

“They think it’s done,” he said.

The current library is 28,800 square feet and has the least amount of space per resident than all but one other library in Lake County, according to the district. The new facility would be 59,000 square feet and allow for more programs, resources and services, officials say.

To make it's case the district assembled an extensive Q&A on its website and held four public forums, among other efforts.

“We spent a lot of time going through that information to answer every question anyone can have,” library board President Anne Richmond said.

Richmond also is involved in a door-to-door campaign to visit 1,000 homes and educate voters. A postcard mailer is targeted to newly-registered voters, she added.

The library board approved going to referendum last October.

“We thought, ‘We've been working on this for 10 years,’” Richmond said. “We don't want to keep kicking the can down the road.”

There has been no organized opposition but some on social media have questioned the amount of the proposed tax increase given reassessments and whether renovating the existing building would be a better option.

Officials say studies in 2012 and 2023 showed the library needs about twice the space it has now. Renovations to replace mechanical systems and other elements would cost about $3 million but not address those needs, according to the district.

Replacing the building on site was estimated in 2016 to cost $25 million to $29 million, an amount library officials say likely has increased.

Adding a third floor was found to be “structurally impractical'' and involves removing a relatively new roof. It also would require relocating for the duration of the project and wasn’t viable, district officials say.

“Everything would cost about the same or more as building a larger building,” Richmond said. “We're not going to spend what we don’t need.”

Plans for a new building include a significant increase in meeting space; new conference/study rooms; expanded youth services; larger maker space area; more room for library collections; a large quiet reading room; accessible parking; and outdoor programming space.

  Round Lake Area Public Library on Hart Road in Round Lake. Library officials are seeking a tax hike to borrow $36.4 million to build a larger facility nearby to the east. Paul Valade/
Renderings of a proposed new Round Lake Area Public Library building to be built pending voter approval between Hart, Railroad Avenue (Route 134) and Cedar Lake Road, just north of downtown Round Lake. Courtesy of Round Lake Area Public 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.