Long-awaited Antioch library expansion gets underway

In November 2020, voters, by the slimmest of margins, authorized the Antioch Public Library District's request to borrow $9.6 million to expand and renovate its building on Main Street.

Now, with the meetings, approvals and other behind-the-scenes work squared away, district taxpayers who voted for or against the project will be able to see it unfold.

"The public will start seeing the changes and the things that are happening," said Becky Jacobson, marketing and communications chief. Updates and images will be posted regularly on the library's Facebook page.

After difficulty tracking down some specifics of the early days, sharing the story is a priority as the library enters its second century.

"We are really dedicated to documenting as much as we can this time," Jacobson said. "We owe it to the community to let them know what's happening."

The Antioch Women's Club opened the library in May 1922 and it was a village and township entity before becoming a district with its own taxing authority. The facility at 757 N. Main St., in the downtown area was built in 1970.

With the need to replace the roof and HVAC system, officials began to consider options for the aging building around 2017. The availability of coffee, bigger and more comfortable places to read, and a teen area were among the top requests in a survey of 1,000 patrons and nonusers.

The November 2020 referendum asking voters for permission to borrow $9.6 million to upgrade the building took more than two weeks to learn the final tally showing voter approval by 8 votes of 13,162 cast.

After months of sorting, moving and clearing, the interior is ready for construction to get underway. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held Tuesday with the actual groundbreaking for an addition to the east side of the building expected in about a week.

"The library is so much more than a repository for books. It's a place where the community can gather," Rebecca Masik, library board treasurer and chair of the renovation and expansion committee said at the groundbreaking. "Whether you were for or against (the referendum) I just want to make sure everybody feels so welcome here."

Library Director Jennifer Drinka said the project will create more space for children and families to gather and play; a dedicated teen space with room for collaboration, quiet reading and gaming; a creative space for all ages to use specialized sewing, laser engraving and technology equipment; and, a fireplace to gather with friends.

There also will be more spaces to display books, movies, and other materials; a self-checkout option; enlarged and enhanced meeting room for programs and community groups; more study room and seats of different varieties and heights.

Construction will begin on the east side of the building and will be done in phases to keep the library open during a majority of the work. The project is expected to be completed in summer 2023.

Some library materials, including the local history section, have been moved off-site and will be unavailable. Meeting rooms will not be available and some parking will be fenced off for equipment and materials.

Drinka said the anticipation, excitement and nervousness as the project gets underway reminded her of her feeling on her wedding day.

"Being here today, we are all part of something special. Something good. Something to be proud of," she said at the groundbreaking.

Rendering of Antioch library's planned teen room. Courtesy of Antioch Public Library District
Rendering of Antioch library's front entrance. Construction is getting underway, more than 15 months after voters narrowly approved borrowing for the $9.6 million expansion/renovation project. Courtesy of Antioch Public Library District
Antioch Mayor Scott Gartner was among the speakers this past week at the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Antioch library expansion/renovation. Construction on the $9.6 million project is getting underway. Courtesy of village of Antioch
Patrons pass a rendering of the planned renovation and expansion of the Antioch library. Courtesy of village of Antioch
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