New St. Charles Public Library on track to open July 17: Here's a first look inside
The unpacking and final touches continue at a feverish pace, but the new St. Charles Public Library is coming together.
After more than a year of construction -- and more than a year of the library and its staff temporarily relocating to the Haines Building about a mile to the west -- the $18.6 million facility remains on track for a July 17 grand opening celebration at its original location at the southeast corner of Main Street and 5th Avenue.
Library Director Edith Craig provided a sneak peek at the 66,000-square-foot, three-level building that will house nearly 300,000 items in addition to numerous conference rooms and separate spaces for children and teens while maintaining the quiet room in the original Carnegie space.
After participating in eight focus groups and consulting with numerous community organizations and the St. Charles Unit District 303 staff and students, Craig believes the new space completes the vision to create a safe and accessible library for the entire community.
An average of 1,000 people are expected to visit the library every day, and about a million items are checked out a year, according to Craig.
"We told people, 'We're building a library for everyone, what do you need?'" Craig said. "People said they wanted something warm and inviting and natural, and that's what we've tried to do. We've tried to address the needs of everyone."
The lobby is a vast space with a welcome desk and the upstairs balcony looking down. Self-checkout stations, return windows and spots for held materials are nearby. Accessibility improvements are immediate with an elevator to the left of the main entrance.
The Huntley Community Room is also close to the entrance; it's a large area with a kitchen that will serve as the main programming space.
What Craig calls the "grand reading room" occupies much of the main floor. With study tables, lounge chairs and a bronze sculpture on the wall designed by local artist Larry K. Johnson, it'll be a prime spot for visitors.
Patrons will notice a major improvement to the technology area. In addition to a computer room, there's now a creator room for people to do everything from 3D printing to podcast recording.
The lower level, which before was functional but dark, is now filled with natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows and has access to a terrace garden. Youth services dominate the lower level including The Neighborhood toddler area.
The Daily Bean coffee shop, vending machines, booths for study groups and two community rooms -- the Miller Haase and Helen Gale rooms -- are also on the lower level.
Upstairs is the nonfiction collection, which previously was divided into three different spaces, in addition to the young adult area. The Loft room for teens looks out over Main Street.
There are two item drop-off locations outside including a drive-up window to retrieve materials. The parking lot has about 200 spaces, 70 more than before.
Craig estimates $13 million was spent on the building's infrastructure. With one heating and air conditioning unit replacing the three in the previous building, the new facility is more comfortable and efficient. Craig said the fresh air intake is 30% greater in the new building.
"Sustainability and accessibility were essential to the design," she said.