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Downers Grove

Residents, Downers Grove Library discuss $2.4 million interior renovation project

Tiffany Nash of Product Architecture & Design discusses the potential new layout of the Downers Grove Library during a meeting Wednesday.
Erica Tiffany Nash of Product Architecture & Design discusses the potential new layout of the Downers Grove Library during a meeting Wednesday.

DOWNERS GROVE – Residents packed the Downers Grove Public Library's meeting room Wednesday night to view drawings of the interior renovation that's proposed to modernize the library and expand its user base.

At the meeting, Chicago firm Product Architecture + Design presented the schematics to the library board and fielded questions from the crowd of about 50 residents whose tone ranged from positive to combative. The board unanimously approved the drawings with a vote. It also unanimously authorized staff to send requests for proposals for construction management services for the project.

The $2.4 million plan would reconfigure the library's interior, increasing the study and collaborative spaces and creating an expanded teen area among other changes that library officials say are demanded by modern users.

"Library use has changed," Board President Kathleen DiCola said. "People are looking for the library to meet different needs. People use the library as a virtual office, people use the library for tutoring. People want to have space in the library to meet with their friends, to meet with coworkers."

Resident Jeffrey Crane attended the meeting, and said he thinks the library is on "the right track."

"I think they're looking at the library as more of a community center, and that's probably, in the future, what the library is going to be," he said.

The plan also consolidates the computer stations and moves the audio-video selection to an adjacent spot. The reconfigured library would also include an expanded vending area with seating, among other changes.

Drawings shown by the firm also depict a revamped north entrance, which is used by about 75 percent of library users, officials said. The plan shortens the length of space a person walks after entering before finding the lobby area.

Some residents in attendance thought the plan focused too much on the needs of teens, and not enough on groups that already use the library heavily.

"I don't think it's balanced with the seniors citizens," said resident Janet Janko. "There's other services that people need that should be considered."

She added she doesn't think simply adding a defined teen area will be enough to draw that demographic to the library.

Another Downers Grove resident and a former library board member, Carol Doty, said she visited the Arlington Heights library that was recently renovated by the same architecture firm, and found a buzzing teen area.

"I was very, very pleased with it," she said.

The library will not reduce the adult collection, officials said, but the plan would place items on the currently unused bottom shelves to consolidate the stacks. The children's collection would be reduced by about 5 percent.

The library board has allocated $2.39 million for the project from its 2013 and 2014 operating budgets, the existing Library Construction Fund and accumulated financial reserves, officials said.

Construction is planned to begin in early 2014 and be completed by fall 2014.

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