Vernon Hills library proves popular in its first year

 
 
Updated 7/9/2011 11:37 AM
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  • Yvonne Tarman, 2, of Libertyville plays on a computer in the children's section at the Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills.

      Yvonne Tarman, 2, of Libertyville plays on a computer in the children's section at the Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Amol Shah works on an accounting lesson using the wireless Internet during a recent visit to the Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills. The library celebrates its anniversary Sunday.

      Amol Shah works on an accounting lesson using the wireless Internet during a recent visit to the Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills. The library celebrates its anniversary Sunday. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Laila Morgan, 7, of Vernon Hills checks out books at the Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills. Patrons borrowed more than 600,000 items during the facility's first 11 months of service, records show.

      Laila Morgan, 7, of Vernon Hills checks out books at the Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills. Patrons borrowed more than 600,000 items during the facility's first 11 months of service, records show. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Patrons at the Aspen Drive Public Library in Vernon Hills checked out more than 662,000 items in the facility's first year of operation, newly released statistics show.

That accounts for nearly 40 percent of the Cook Memorial Public Library District's overall circulation for the period, an estimated 1.5 million books, DVDs, CDs and other items.

With the library celebrating its anniversary Sunday, district leaders are ecstatic about the numbers.

"It's fantastic," Cook Memorial board member Mary Ann Phillips said. "They're embracing the library. They're embracing the programs."

The one-story building on Aspen Drive south of Route 60 is the village's first dedicated library. Costing $7 million to build and equip, it replaced a small, temporary branch that operated in the basement of village hall on Evergreen Drive from 2003 to 2010.

The library was part of a $14 million construction project that also included the expansion and renovation of the historic Cook Park Library in downtown Libertyville. That project concluded in January.

The projects were completed despite decades of community squabbling over library services in the Libertyville and Vernon Hills areas. Voters rejected plan after plan until the board eventually figured out a way to build in Vernon Hills without raising taxes, a tactic that let them avoid putting a question on a ballot.

Circulation figures provided to the Daily Herald showed the Aspen Drive Library was busy in its first year.

Patrons borrowed 662,002 items there between July 2010 and June 30, according to the most recent statistics available. That's an average of 55,167 a month.

By way of comparison, circulation at the Evergreen Drive temporary library averaged 28,555 items between July 2009 and May 2010, records show.

Additionally, 248,230 people visited the Aspen Drive Library during its first year, an average of 20,686 a month.

That's nearly three times the monthly average recorded at the Evergreen Library during the previous year.

"My, I think they needed a library," Cook Memorial board President Bonnie Quirke said.

Quirke said the Aspen Drive circulation and visitation figures are higher than she expected.

"I am just pleased that we finally did it," she said. "We've silenced the critics and served the public."

Library Director Stephen Kershner attributed some of the high foot traffic to the library's location. It was built within walking distance of six Hawthorn Elementary District 73 schools and a short drive from Vernon Hills High School.

Kershner also said he's been pleased to see many families enjoying the library together.

With meeting rooms, programming space, a computer lab and other amenities, the Aspen Drive Library isn't merely a book repository. It's become an important community asset, Quirke said.

"It really is a center for that town," she said.