Wauconda Area Library officials plan improvements without raising taxes
Wauconda Area Library officials are working with architects on a plan that could change the look of the facility and improve access for customers.
A reconfigured approach to the front doors, a reading garden and a drive-up window are chief among the projects being considered, but none have been finalized.
They aren't yet sure how much the work could cost or even what type of work will be done, but library leaders insist they won't raise taxes to pay for proposed improvements.
Administrators expect to finance any construction with savings, a loan and possibly a community fundraising effort. They took a similar approach when renovating the library's interior in late 2014 and early 2015.
"There have been no talks of referendum," library board President Terry Stevig said. "We are aware we must do the very best job we can with the money we have."
Entrance a priority
Any of the improvements now being discussed for the two-level, 27,500-square-foot library likely would be implemented in phases over several years as they become affordable, Director Tom Kern said. The library opened in 1997.
Redesigning the approach to the main entrance from the parking lot, which is southwest of the building at 801 N. Main St., tops the library's to-do list.
Patrons now have to climb a flight of concrete stairs or walk up a long ramp to reach the library's glass doors, and the stairs aren't in great shape. They're stained in many spots, and several have long cracks.
"You will notice the deterioration if you take a quick look," Kern said. "They are still safe, but they are due for replacement."
In a fall library survey, nearly 55 percent of patrons said improving building access was a high-priority issue.
The staircase was rebuilt in 2007. Rather than doing that every decade, officials are looking at reconfiguring the approach in a way that also improves patron access.
The entrance itself will remain where it is, though.
"It cannot be moved," Kern said.
Patron Judy Olszewski would welcome a change at the entrance.
"There's been times where it's kind of dangerous," said Olszewski, of Island Lake. "And I think we should have better access for the elderly and the handicapped."
Officials also envision a reading garden with a pathway around the rear of the library grounds.
Kern believes it would be popular. The library overlooks a wooded area, and patrons have spotted large birds and deer on the land from time to time. A drive-up window for material pickups and returns has been proposed, too. But that might be delayed until officials are sure it's affordable, Kern said.
Funding the work
Officials don't yet have architectural renderings or cost estimates for any of the proposed improvements. But they're coming.
A Chicago firm called Project Architecture + Design has been hired to work on the project. The company also designed the 2014-15 renovation, a project that cost $2 million to complete.
"They work well with our staff and trustees, they are creative and professional, they understand libraries and they are very reasonably priced," Kern said of the architects.
Money from the library's special reserve fund could help pay for the design and construction. A loan is likely, too, and officials again plan to apply for a state grant.
Additionally, a charitable foundation may be created to raise money for the reading garden by selling paving bricks inscribed with the names of donors or memorial messages, Kern said.
"This has proved to be popular at other libraries in the area," he said.
Officials expect to solidify a funding plan this spring or early summer, as the current fiscal year draws to a close and the district's financial outlook becomes clearer. Kern hopes construction crews could start work as soon as August.