Naperville library still pushing for renovations to Nichols
Naperville Public Library had plans to renovate one of its three buildings each year, starting with the smallest and moving to the newest.
But it looks like some of those plans may be delayed because of concerns about money.
Renovations on the smallest building, Naper Boulevard, were completed in April when the branch got roughly $1 million of computers, flooring, furniture, lighting and accessibility improvements.
The Nichols Library downtown is set to be next, followed by the 95th Street Library.
The library has designs complete for at least $1.7 million of work on Nichols, with $300,000 for the project already on hand. The rest -- $1.4 million -- had been approved by the city of Naperville, which funds the library.
But now the city is cutting short its budget year to move to a calendar-based cycle and officials are facing a deficit in the 2016 spending plan. So the $1.4 million needed to improve the main library at 200 W. Jefferson Ave. is no longer guaranteed, Executive Director Julie Rothenfluh said.
"As we have changed to the calendar year and this money has not been borrowed yet, we are being asked to reapply for this funding," she said.
Library board members voted unanimously Wednesday to go ahead with asking for the money again. Officials now will seek not only the previously promised $1.4 million, but up to $1.9 million that would allow for renovations to both levels of the library, new furniture and an expanded scope of work. Including the $300,000 already in the library's hands, that means the total project scope could be $2.2 million.
While board members want to move forward with Nichols, they decided to postpone asking for money to renovate the 12-year-old 95th Street Library until 2017. Work estimated at $1.75 million to replace heavily used furniture and carpeting at the building that sees roughly 520,000 visitors each year originally was scheduled for 2016.
Library officials hope the city can reallocate money for the project at Nichols, which will improve safety of the main staircase, move a computer lab from the lower to the upper level to create a new program space, redo the children's collection and make the building brighter.
Andrew Dogan, director of library design and planning for Williams Architects, which is designing the Nichols renovation, said key elements of the project will address safety, energy efficiency, seating space, electricity needs and give the building a new look and feel to match the shifting ways libraries are being used.
"The role of libraries and the importance of libraries in the community is very, very much alive and very relevant," Dogan said. "The goals of what we're trying to do, as we did at Naper Boulevard, is to address those changing needs in terms of providing more and improved community spaces, more seating, more access to technology and replacing some of the areas that are at or near the end of their useful life in terms of finishes and fixtures."
Lower-level improvements include a new entrance area and layout for the children's department, complete with a "maker space" for kids to do crafts, new carpeting throughout and lighting and flooring upgrades to the lobby.
Upper-level renovations include reorganizing the teen area, moving and improving the quiet reading room, removing the glass door into the main adult collection to open up the space and installing new lighting and flooring.
The stairway between levels also will be an area of focus, Dogan said, because it does not meet safety codes. Designers plan to wall off the area under the stairs and move the vending machines to the opposite wall. Contractors also would close off the risers of the stairs and install new stainless steel at the edges to prevent people from tripping. A glass wall enclosing the stairway on the upper level would help prevent sound from traveling between floors.
The library will make its request for renewed city funding next month. The project at Nichols, if it's reapproved, could begin in February and conclude in July.