Aspen Drive Library expansion is finally completed
Vernon Hills resident Debbie Huyett was filled with pride Tuesday morning when she walked into the Aspen Drive Library and saw the results of a nine-month, $6.8 million expansion and renovation project.
Aspen's youth department was relocated and dramatically enlarged as part of the effort, which ostensibly wrapped up Friday. The number of study rooms tripled. Teens have a dedicated area for the first time in the library's 9-year history.
And then there's the new quiet reading room, a glass-walled oasis filled with comfortable chairs, an assortment of tables and a brick-faced fireplace. That's where Huyett, a freelance writer, chose to work Tuesday.
"I'm just overjoyed," Huyett said. "I love what they've done."
Cook Memorial Public Library District Director David Archer is pretty pleased with the renovated digs, too.
"It really turned out great," Archer said as he surveyed the space. "It doesn't feel like an addition. It feels like part of the original design."
Built on the library's northeast side, the expansion added 15,000 square feet to what had been a one-story, 20,000-square-foot building at 701 Aspen Drive.
Half the addition is ground-level public space. The rest is a basement that, for now, will be left unfinished and used for storage.
Most of the added aboveground space has been turned into a new youth department that's significantly larger than the old kids area, which had been on the building's south side.
There's a long, low table equipped with computers for younger patrons, a flexible space that has tables and chairs but can be cleared out for programs, and an early-learning area that's perfect for playtime and story time.
The library's 180-gallon fish tank was relocated to this area, too.
Vernon Hills resident Jessica Yezek visited the library Tuesday with her 4-year-old son, Grayson, and 6-month-only daughter, Audrey. She was happy with the department's new amenities -- especially the addition of a family bathroom.
"That's huge -- especially (for) a diaper change," Yezek said.
Moving the kids department freed up space for the new quiet reading room, as well as for an area that'll be reserved for high school students after school and on weekends.
That was a particularly important design element for Archer.
"The issue had always been that middle schoolers would get here before the high schoolers, and the high schoolers would have no space," he said. "So this area will be for their exclusive use."
The aptly dubbed high school zone has a long couch with small tables, a counter with four desktop computers, and three large table sets equipped with power and USB outlets.
Those power-equipped tables can be found throughout the library now, including in a large open area on the building's east side.
"We've increased the number of tables and added more general seating," Archer said. "We wanted to have as much seating as possible."
Not all of the changes occurred inside the library.
Trees and ground-level landscaping were planted on the building's south side, and two benches were added for people who want to enjoy some fresh air.
Those exterior elements were added when it became clear the project was coming in under budget, Archer said. They didn't increase the cost of the project.
In fact, the library district is allowing people to dedicate those trees or benches to loved ones for a fee. To sponsor a tree or bench, call (224) 513-7406.
Thirty-three parking spaces were added to the lot, too.
A public open house, complete with tours and other activities, is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23. Registration isn't needed.