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Oswego Public Library may grow again : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Oswego Public Library may grow again
Board reviews plans for 11,370 foot addition with second story

by Lyle R. Rolfe


Oswego Public Library District officials are planning an expansion to the agency's downtown Oswego Campus Library.

This past week library district board members reviewed an architectural firm's plan to construct a first floor addition along with a second floor on the building at Jefferson Street at Main Street in the village's downtown.

The addition and second story would serve to increase the total floor space in the building by 11,370 square feet.

Constructed in 1964, the library has been added onto twice, once in 1980-81 and in 1997. In May 2010 contractors for the library completed an extensive interior and exterior renovation of the building.

The 2010 renovation was completed nine months after the library district opened its Montgomery Campus Library at 1111 Reading Drive in Montgomery.

During a Dec. 4 meeting, the library board's building and grounds committee directed Dewberry Architects Inc. of Elgin to prepare plans for an addition to the Oswego Campus Library because the building has become too crowded. Dewberry Architects along with the Frederick Quinn Corporation did the planning and construction of the 2010 remodeling.

The current estimated cost for the addition would be $4.5 million, but Library Director Sarah Skilton said library board members will decide how much to spend.

Regardless of the cost, residents will not be asked for any tax increases, Board President Vernita Hettrich said.

Skilton said, they have $161,469 available from transition fees paid by developers of residential projects in the Oswego portion of the library district. The fees are paid by residential developers to help offset the cost of providing facilities and services for people moving into their homes until they begin paying property taxes.

Developers in three areas of the district-Oswego, Montgomery, and Plainfield, pay the fees but the revenues must be used only for bricks and mortar in each community where they are paid, Skilton noted.

She said they also have $824,925 in a special reserve fund that can be used for the new addition, as well as $514,771 in a building fund minus whatever is needed to operate the present buildings. They also have $5,963,266 in the general fund, minus whatever is needed for utilities and other expenses in the present buildings.

Property taxes are the library district's primary source of revenue. This past year the library district's tax rate for every $100 of equalized assessed valuation was 27 cents. Under the 27 cent rate, the owner of a home valued at $180,000 that did not claim any available exemptions paid a total of $163 in property taxes to the library district last year.

According to Dewberry architect Doug Pfeiffer, the new space will include a second story totaling 7,370 square feet and a 4,000 square-foot first floor addition at the northeast corner of the building to bring the total size of the building to just under 34,000 square feet.

This would still be about 2,000 square feet less than the Montgomery Campus Library.

Hettrich noted that the Oswego building was designed and constructed to hold a second floor some day.

Pfeiffer said the addition would provide space for a public meeting room like Montgomery has, an expansion of the children's programming, increase the size of the children's department and provide space to add more books to the collections.

They also proposed moving the teen department and most of the computers to the second floor and have an area for individuals studying, and working in teams. Areas also would be useable for meetings, he noted.

Board members ask
exterior design changes

While reviewing the architects' renderings, two board members said they did not like the proposed exterior design because it destroyed the prairie-style design of the building completed in 2010.

Board member Terry Tamblyn said he would like to see the roofline changed to look more like the present building.

"It would give it a homey look rather than an institutional look. We've got lots of institutions around town between schools and everything else. We don't need another prison look," he said.

He said it's not a huge building and added that the design makes it look larger than he likes as well as making it look like an institution.

"Looking at the front of the building, there's a lot of work to do there because it's not embracing me. It's not attracting me to go into that space," Tamblyn added.

The drawing shows rows of clerestory windows along the top of the along the east and south (front) sides which are visible to the public, but few windows where patrons could see out. Tamblyn said this lack of windows adds to the institutional look.

Board member Craig Weber agreed with Tamblyn and said adding a hip roof to the second floor would make it look less institutional or contemporary.

"This was not the look we were going for," he added.

Michael Mackey, Dewberry's senior library planner, said they would review the designs.

The 2010 remodeling included adding many large windows opening the public view to the inside of the building to the public and allowing patrons to see the outside to the north and east as well as to the north looking across Waubonsie Creek behind the building. The architects were also able to design it to give the appearance of one new building.

Pfeiffer said their goal on the new drawings was to try to add some of the amenities and services that they had wanted to accomplish in the 2010 remodeling but were not attainable.

"We feel that we can accomplish most of these things in this plan," he said.

He said they believe the new design is keeping with the original concept for the building and will not affect the improvements that were completed during the 2010 remodeling.

Mackey added their goal was to have a design that would not be too different or too radical so it would blend into the present library design.

The proposed new floor plan would include the addition of a 700-square foot extension of the first floor on the north end of the building. It would include space for more books and seating for patrons.

Mackey noted that board members had previously said they were concerned about the loss of the walk-up book drop, on the south side or front of the building, so the new plan showed a drive-up drop on the parking lot or east side of the building. But for drivers to deposit books from their vehicles, the traffic pattern in the parking lot would have to be reversed which would mean having a combined entrance-exit from the lot instead of the present two driveways. In addition, the number of parking spaces in the lot would be reduced by seven, from 52 to 45.

Hettrich said she was opposed to the loss of any parking spaces because they often do not have ample parking for patrons when programs are being presented.

It was noted that the West Branch of the Aurora Public Library has a separate mailbox type outdoor book drop that a staff member empties each day.

Board member Terry Friedman said other area libraries also have separate book drops, so Sarah Skilton, director, said she would see how they have been accepted.

Board member Judy Roberts favored the drive-up book drop for convenience of older patrons. But Tamblyn noted that when Northern Illinois University did a citizens' needs study, many people wanted more parking, but none mentioned having a drive-up book-drop

In the new plan, Skilton's office would have to be moved, so it would be relocated along the south side near other administrative and staff offices, he said.

"This won't bother me because I'm out of my office much of the time walking through the library," she said.

The architects also included in their plans an area called a lounge-cafe inside the front entrance. But because the library does not allow food or drink inside the library, board members said it probably would end up being a study area or place for patrons to sit and look outside. However, no final decision was made.

The main entrance and circulation desk would remain in the same location. The public stairway and elevator to the second floor would be located at this front entrance with an employee stairway at the northeast corner of the building.

Adult services would remain about the same, but the computers would be moved to the second floor and the companion parent-child computers would stay in the children's area. Moving the adult computers would provide space to expand the fiction, non-fiction and media collections, Mackey said.

The teen area on the south side of the building would be moved to the second floor and the genealogy section would replace it. But Roberts said this is a nice area for book clubs to use.

"I would hate to see it be displaced. It's a delightful view from the inside out and a nice view in from the outside. Maybe we could put genealogy where the audio tapes are," Roberts said.

Pfeiffer said the Oswego and Montgomery Campus Libraries have different qualities.

Oswego tends to be a more intimate space and the patrons use the buildings differently he said, so they want to preserve those characteristics. The first floor will continue to be a quiet area.

During the regular meeting after the COW session, board members approved contracts to use Dewberry Architects for the design work and the Frederick Quinn Corporation as construction managers.

The architects will bring revised plans to the next board's next committee of the whole meeting at 4 p.m. on Feb. 12 at the Oswego Campus. The session is open to the public.

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