Construction is scheduled to begin September 4 and will take about two months. By November, 2018, the library will be even more user-friendly, beautiful, and safer as access from the main parking lot to the front entrance and entire front plaza will be completely renovated and greatly improved. The architectural design will be finished by the end of July. The library will remain open throughout most of the project. Planting for the new landscaping is scheduled for Spring, 2019.
The library’s interior underwent a complete transformation four years ago in order to better serve the changing needs of the Wauconda Area community. The exterior of the building is in excellent shape, having been painted twice since it opened 20 years ago, and no changes are planned at this time. The plaza area in front of the library, however, is showing all the signs of 20 years of wear and tear. All of the concrete surfaces have been problematic. The stairs were replaced in 2007, and are already showing signs of deterioration again. The concrete surfaces throughout the area are stained, pock-marked and crumbling in many places in spite of our best efforts to patch and repair as needed. One more winter is likely to cause structural problems that could make some of the surfaces unsafe. Waiting until this happens could be a very costly mistake.
In October 2017, the library conducted a community survey to learn more about user experiences at the Wauconda Area Library and to ask for feedback and suggestions, now that the interior renovation and the organizational restructuring were finished. The library reached out to more than 10,000 Library District residents – both users and nonusers. We received an extraordinary response of 2,008 completed surveys, including more than 4,600 responses to open-ended questions, greatly surpassing expectations. Nearly 55% of the respondents indicated that improving access from the parking lot to the main entrance is a high-priority issue.
Rather than simply replace all the existing concrete with new concrete that is likely to present the same issues of deterioration and unfriendly design for the next 20 years, it was determined that the time has come to solve all the problems related to this area in front of the library, including configuration and infrastructure.
In late 2017, the Library Board interviewed four architectural firms for the job creating a Master Plan a new approach from the parking lot to the facility’s front doors, as well as some other possible improvements to the building and grounds. Product Architecture and Design – the company that designed the 2014 interior renovation – was selected to create the new Master Plan for library and/or site improvements, along with Featherstone, Inc., who would provide the related cost estimates. In April, 2018, Product was hired to design the project as it now stands and will be put out for bid in early August.
Briefly, this building project will accomplish the following:
- The concrete front stairs will be replaced entirely by a system of durable non-permeable pavers as recommended and designed by the library's architects. The new stairs will be less steep with an additional landing, and will be heated from underneath to prevent any build-up of ice or snow.
- A new ADA ramp and walkway will provide easier, more direct pedestrian access from the parking lot to the front entrance, especially for strollers and wheelchairs. This new ramp will begin near the crosswalk. By creating this more direct pathway, the distance from the parking lot to the front door will be cut in half for these patrons. This ramp will also include a heating system under the new surface comprised of pavers.
- The existing ADA ramp that provides easy access for the ADA parking located near the front entrance will be improved by widening the ramp, replacing all concrete with pavers, and adding a heating system under the new surface.
- The heated walkways and steps will not only be much safer for all library users, but will result in lower staff maintenance hours and healthier landscaping.
- High curbing will be eliminated at all points through which strollers or wheelchairs might pass.
- The driveway in front of the library will be widened, improving traffic flow for safer, more user-friendly pick-up and drop-off
- Lighting will improve by adding many new LED fixtures and by brightening the entire area leading up to the entrance.
- In addition to the two existing “Loading Zone” spaces, two “Express Parking” spaces will be added near the front entrance for 10-minute parking.
- The existing outdated LED parking lot light fixtures will be replaced with new LED fixtures that will be up to five times brighter, illuminating the entire parking lot.
- New outdoor concert stage/platform for summer concerts and children's programs.
- Repair of all cracked areas of the parking lot.
- New landscaping will be planted in Spring, 2019.
A lot of thought and careful planning has gone into this project. The library is confident that all library users are going to LOVE the improvements that are planned. The new design and technology used in this project will enable the library to better serve the community for decades to come at lower cost while ensuring its future as one of the Wauconda Area’s most valuable assets.
The library has an outstanding financial position. Because of recent advances in library automation and organizational changes, the library has been able to increase its cash reserve to the extent that it can partially fund the current $1.6 million project while maintaining enough of a balance to cover any emergencies or contingencies that might arise for many years to come. Given this sound financial position, the current project will be funded as follows:
- The library will fund the project in part with $275,000 from its Special Reserve Fund.
- It is important to note that the library applied for and was awarded the maximum amount ($125,000) of the Live and Learn Construction Grant from the Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White. In order to receive this funding, the project design and cost estimates were carefully scrutinized by the Illinois State Library’s review committee for this grant and received high praise.
- The library will borrow $1.2 million in the form of a low-interest debt certificate to be paid back over a 10-year period using the library’s operating funds. The timing is right for such a loan, as interest rates are predicted to rise in the coming years. The cost of postponing this project even by just one year is likely to be substantial.
- There will be no increase in taxes resulting from this project. The 20-year building bonds from 1996, re-financed in 2004 at a lower interest rate, expired in 2016, resulting in the elimination of that tax from library district tax bills. While library tax increases in recent years have been minimal, they are necessary in order to cover the costs of goods and services which increase each year when the economy is growing.
- Over the long-term, this construction project will enable the library to operate more cost-effectively further into the future. Not only will the approach to the front entrance be more user-friendly and safer for all library users, it will be much more durable and will require much less winter maintenance (thanks to the heated walkways).
- The new Wauconda Area Library Foundation will likely play an important role in funding some of the additional landscaping features of this project that may not come to fruition without their financial assistance.
The master plan for this project was prepared by Product Architecture and Design, and the cost estimates were prepared by Featherstone Inc.
Please feel free to ask questions at any time by calling Library Director Tom Kern at 847-526-6225.