Carol Stream library planning $5.4 million renovation
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Through a narrow lobby is the main floor of the Carol Stream Public Library, a large room with brick exterior walls, fluorescent lighting and not much personality.
Tall, clunky bookcases date back to the building's opening in 1977. Some of the furniture? Just as outdated.
But the library would make a far more welcoming first impression through a $5.4 million renovation -- the first major remodel to the building since its construction.
As they prepare to host a series of forums on the proposed project, library leaders keep circling back to the same goal: creating a welcoming environment.
"'Welcoming' encompasses a variety of things," Assistant Director Mary Clemens says. "It's a modern look and feel, but it's also having a convenient outlet.
"It's having chairs that are comfortable for senior citizens to get in and out of as well as our middle school students who come down the street from Jay Stream. It's trying to provide all those different aspects that make every resident feel that this a place where they're welcome."
Ahead of Q-and-A sessions on Feb. 18 and March 25, Clemens and Director Susan Westgate provided an overview of the redesign and a funding plan that would involve a property tax increase. Here's a look at some of those issues.
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The library would set aside $3.425 million in capital reserves to finance about 63 percent of the project's costs. That leaves a $2 million shortfall, and library trustees recently met with their counterparts in the village to discuss how to cover it.
One proposal calls for asking the village to use its home-rule authority to issue $2 million in bonds on the library's behalf.
If officials choose to retire the debt in 15 years, the owner of a $228,500 home -- the average in Carol Stream -- would pay an additional $10.53 in annual property taxes to the library for principal and interest payments on the bonds, according to an analysis by the library's financial consultants.
A 10-year loan would increase property taxes for that homeowner by about $14.45 annually.
Another proposal calls for securing an intergovernmental agreement under which the village would provide a loan out of its reserves to the library. The library also would need to increase its tax levy to repay that loan, Westgate said.
Village Manager Joe Breinig said Thursday that officials are in the "very early and preliminary" stages of discussing funding and have not yet talked specifics.
The possible sale of the library's Kuhn Road property also could accelerate the retirement of any debt, Westgate said.
The property was intended to become the site of a new library, but voters rejected that plan three times. Then in 2013, the library board considered the sale of the land, receiving a $1.35 million offer from nursing home developers.
Those talks eventually died, and in 2015, the board signed a deal to lease the property to the park district for $1 a year. The park district converted the land into a 9-hole disc golf course.
Westgate said the next step is hiring an appraiser to determine the value of the land.
"We are going to explore looking into that, but we don't know how long it would take to sell," Westgate said. "We don't exactly what it might sell for. ... That could take longer than we would want to wait to go forward with the project."
The library has not increased its tax levy in nearly eight years, but has built up capital reserves, Westgate said.
"We've done staff restructuring. We pay really close attention to all of our expenses and see where we can make savings," Westgate said. "We've been pretty competitive with all of our contract negotiations with all of our vendors and contractors, and all of these things have led to nice surpluses at the end of each year that we've been able to transfer into our capital funds."
Courtesy of the Carol Stream Public Library
Capital improvements -- replacing lighting, furniture, sprinkler systems and other building infrastructure -- would make up more than a third of the project's costs.
In the lobby, the circulation desk would be set back to open up the entryway and make room for a new vending cafe.
Youth services would move from the building's east end to the west. And the adult department would shift to the east side.
"Some of the challenges that we face is that it is one, big, large open space," Westgate said of the main floor. "There's no separation of teen, youth and adult departments, so the renovation plan does have a dividing section with a quiet reading room, study rooms and a multipurpose room, so it kind of creates that buffer."
Masonry on the building's north wall would be replaced with windows that provide views of a new outdoor patio and a wooded lot that library leaders hope to convert into a public space. Westgate said the library could obtain grant funds to install outdoor trails and illustrated storyboards.
Westgate and Clemens said the plans are the result of surveys and focus groups that asked patrons how to improve the library and make it more welcoming.
"And I think that this plan hits all of the buttons with our existing footprint," Westgate said.