Lombard Library Makes Case to Expand

By Hitzeman, Harry | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 2, 2003 | Go to article overview

Lombard Library Makes Case to Expand


Hitzeman, Harry, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Harry Hitzeman Daily Herald Staff Writer

Luisa Melton visits Helen M. Plum Memorial Library every few weeks to find books for her 2 -year-old daughter, Grace.

But navigating the aisles with Grace and 6-month-old Sofia in a double stroller can be tough.

The Lombard woman says she's happy with her 34,300-square-foot local library, but believes there could be a larger DVD selection and more bilingual books.

"It would be nice if the aisles were bigger, if there was more room," she said.

Still, Melton is undecided on whether she'd want to pay more property taxes for a larger building, a proposal library officials will put to voters next spring.

'We're out of room'

If voters approve, the old facility would be razed and a new 79,000-square-foot library erected at the current site at 110 W. Maple St., just south of Lilacia Park.

During construction, library materials would be moved to an alternate location, perhaps a strip mall in town.

Library officials are still hammering out the cost and final design of a facility they believe will serve the village's needs until at least 2020.

With no cost estimate, library officials don't yet know how large a tax increase they'll seek.

Lombard officials began studying the need for a new building in 2001, and they say the space crunch is severe.

"We're just totally out of space. We're out of room," said library Director Bob Harris. "Buildings get old. Needs change."

The current library is functional, but using it is like piling a family of six into a 1985 Ford Escort: You'll get to your destination, but the ride won't be comfortable.

Shelves are so packed it's difficult to squeeze a book back in its place.

Group-study rooms are non-existent. There are no fire sprinklers, and there's only one room for children's programming.

"If we eliminate all of our desks and all of our tables and turned the building into a giant warehouse, we would have room for all the books," said library Trustee Wayne Kankovsky. "But that's not what the library's all about."

Beyond books

Carla Hayden agrees.

As president of the American Library Association, Hayden has seen firsthand how libraries have evolved into multimedia facilities - with CDs, DVDs, books on tape and computers - in their mission to provide information.

"It's an entire world of information; that's the biggest change. It's not just books anymore," said Hayden, executive director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.

With the rise of the Internet, where information that would fill hundreds of libraries is accessible on a single computer screen, critics question why libraries need to grow.

But regional library experts say a vast majority of books are not available in a digital medium. Plus, for many library patrons, the local library is their connection to the World Wide Web, and providing computers takes up space.

Hayden added that libraries still need to provide study carrels, group study rooms and meeting rooms.

"More libraries are realizing you can't just have a kid section and an adult section and nothing for teens," she said.

Way beyond reading

Recent suburban library expansions have illustrated the trend of not only providing a clearinghouse of information, but a place to snuggle with a book, practice a presentation or just plain hang out.

In Elgin, officials recently unveiled a 140,000-square-foot, $30 million library.

Dan Zack, Gail Borden Public Library director, said patrons are telling him that when they walk through the door the building draws them in. And once inside, they want to stay.

"Public expectation is up. They want more from libraries," he said. "Years ago, (libraries) tended to be more Spartan."

Zack said there's no absolute formula for determining a library's size; needs vary from community to community.

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