Checking out the Libraries Fremont, Cook Officials Seek Some Elbow Room

Article excerpt

Byline: Russell Lissau and C. L. Waller Daily Herald Staff Writers

The kinship between Cook Memorial Library in Libertyville and Fremont Public Library in Mundelein goes back some 50 years.

It started when librarians from the then-Libertyville Township Library began offering books to Mundelein residents in a room near routes 45 and 176.

That site eventually became home to the Fremont library, while Libertyville Township library became the Cook Memorial district in 1973, and both developed their own identities.

What they also have done since then is grow - and it's that growth that has them going to voters next week with similar proposals to solve space problems.

Officials at both libraries want to construct new facilities and renovate existing buildings. They are hopeful voters will support the projects, but no one is expecting an easy ride.

"I'm not taking this for granted," Fremont spokeswoman Kathleen Callahan said.

The success of any library referendum is tough to predict, experts say.

Voters with school-age children are more likely to support a library referendum, said John Steinke, a political science professor at College of Lake County.

However, in an area where property taxes are high, like Lake County, fire and police issues often gain more support, he said. In addition, the two library proposals hit the March 17 ballots several months after school referendums - Libertyville High and Diamond Lake elementary - that raised residents' taxes.

"That's a very real concern, that we are asking one more time to raise their tax bills," Callahan said.

Cook Memorial board President Joe Bean said the board chose to follow the high school referendum so as not to interfere with that effort last November.

With the last library construction referendum held in 1968, Bean said, "Once every 30 years is not bad for referendums."

The decision to become a two-building district is a wild card, too, because no libraries in Lake County have multiple facilities. Voters in each district will have to decide whether they really need two library buildings.

"It's such an individual case," said Miriam Pollack, of the North Suburban Library System.

There are plenty of other factors that could work against the library referendums.

"It could be cost," Fremont Director Kelly Krieg-Sigman said. "It could be bad design. Or it could be a cold day or poor voter turnout."

Even though Krieg-Sigman has received positive comments from patrons about Fremont's plan, the kind words will be meaningless if they don't vote, she said.

"They must make their feelings known by voting," she said.

As in any election, there are individual concerns and circumstances that set each referendum apart.

Cook Memorial Library

Little did Ansel B. Cook know what he was starting in 1894 when he penned a will to the village of Libertyville, calling for his property in the center of town to be used for a meeting hall and public library.

Over the years the library has evolved into the busiest library district in Lake County and the seventh busiest in the state.

"He had an appreciation for change and improvement," said Fred Byergo, the district's head librarian. "The library has changed enormously since that time, and Mr. Cook would understand that the library must continue to change if it is to improve."

Covering 35 square miles and 50,000 people, the district encompasses the village, Green Oaks, Mettawa, Indian Creek, unincorporated Libertyville Township and portions of Vernon Hills and Mundelein.

On March 17, voters will be asked to take the library into another era with renovations to the existing facility in downtown Libertyville and construction of a new, larger main library near Lake Harvey in Vernon Hills.

Library officials want a tax rate increase of 15 cents per $100 of assessed property value. …