Genevans to decide if larger library is worth paying more taxes

Updated 3/15/2017 4:26 PM
  • Geneva Public Library, at 127 James St., would be replaced by one double its size if voters next month approve borrowing almost $22 million.

    Geneva Public Library, at 127 James St., would be replaced by one double its size if voters next month approve borrowing almost $22 million. Daily Herald file photo, 2008

Geneva Library District residents will decide April 4 if having a larger library is a good enough idea that they are willing to pay more money to get it.

The district is seeking permission to borrow as much as $21.8 million to build and equip a new library more than double the size of the current one.

The loan would cost the owner of a $300,000 home an additional $99 a year in property taxes, for as long as 20 years. The owner of that home now pays about $330 to the library.

Why new?

The library at 127 W. James St. is too small for the population of the district, library leaders have said for years. The original building opened in 1908, when the city's population was around 3,000. It was expanded in 1938, 1986 and 1998.

The library district -- which includes unincorporated areas, including part of the Mill Creek subdivision -- has about 30,500 residents.

The district began planning for a new building in the early 1980s, then decided on expansion instead.

The library is landlocked, by a commercial building to the north and City Hall to the east.

It does not have a parking lot. Patrons park on the street, and the library rents spaces for employees in a lot several blocks away.

The building, which is on three levels, does have an elevator, but it doesn't meet current size rules under the Americans With Disabilities Act, according to library officials.

And because of the library's configuration, it has more stations to staff than other comparable libraries, to monitor patrons. For example, the Batavia Library has a circulation desk and a reference desk on the main floor, and a circulation/reference desk on the bottom floor. Geneva has at least five staffed spots.

In 2016, the district bought the site of the former Sixth Street School, 210 S. Sixth St., from Kane County.

Robert Shiffler, library board president, said the new library could be staffed with almost the same amount of workers. The library could also stop paying for off-site storage of some of its materials, he said.

The library has not finalized the design for the new building, preferring to wait for the outcome of the referendum. But a preliminary concept calls for having community meeting rooms that could be used even when the library is closed. There would be more room dedicated for programming for middle-school and teenage patrons, he said, and "maker space" areas for people to work on creative projects such as video and music.

The site would also retain a small playground.

The library board will have an open house about the referendum at 10 a.m. Saturday at the library.

An analysis of the current building, a report on the district's finances, and more about the plan for a new library, can be found in the Press Room section of the library's website.

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