Vernon Library main building to close for renovations
The annex area of the Vernon Area Public Library in Lincolnshire where materials will be moved and and used as the temporary library during the renovation of the main library. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 29, 2013 2:14AM
LINCOLNSHIRE — The past and the future of the Vernon Area Public Library collided last week — and the man sitting one table over from the library officials was not happy about it.
Cynthia Fuerst, executive director, and Catherine Savage, spokeswoman, led a small tour of the areas that will undergo an extensive renovation from March through May. The tour began in one of the open reading areas, and Fuerst and Savage got a little too excited while describing the changes that will begin March 5.
An older man, reading a hardcover book at the table next to the group, shushed the ladies. A little embarrassed, they got up and started looking for a private study room to move the tour into.
Only one was available, the others were reserved…an impromptu illustration of the need for renovations. As Savage explained, the entire premise of the library is changing: In a generation’s time, the open areas will be known for mild background noise, as small groups work on projects together; there will be “quiet rooms” for those who just want to read in silence.
“There’s still this contingent that expects the library to be quiet,” Savage said once the group found an available space. “The main floor is becoming more active.”
The entire VAPL will de-activate for a week, closing its doors from March 5-8 for a $1.3 million renovation of walls, wiring, furniture and more. The 20-year-old main building is scheduled to be closed until mid-May, but lending services will continue after March 8 next door, in the VAPL’s 10,000-square-foot original building. The Deerfield Public Library is undergoing a similar operation at this time — renovating its downtown building while renting a storefront at the intersection of Waukegan and Lake Cook roads.
The Board of Trustees expects to fund the entire renovation with cash saved in recent years, and should need no levy increase.
“We knew we were going to do this for a long time, so we were able to set aside money every year,” said George Goldstein, board president. “If we did more of the project at one time, in the long run, it would be less expensive.”
The library went through major work a year ago, throwing plastic over its shelves and closing off some areas while rearranging its bookcases, adding high-efficiency lightbulbs and rewiring many rooms for internet-age needs. This phase will require the tearing down and rebuilding of interior walls as whole rooms are removed and recreated; Goldstein and Fuerst agreed that the best method for this spring would be to re-open the “annex.”
“To make the new building work in the modern age, we’re going back to the old building,” Goldstein said.
Thus, the staff will spend next week moving about 10,000 of the most popular books, DVDs, games and more into the original library’s shelves. The remaining 235,000 pieces of the collection will still be accessible in the main building, Fuerst said, but staffers may need some notice to make them available.
Savage and Fuerst said that, once updated, the revamped main building will offer a self-serve cafe (vending machines, no barista), a more colorful children’s area, a community room with modern wiring and the gas-fireplace-warmed, along with a 14-person quiet reading area. The bathrooms will also be “demolished and refinished,” Savage said, which drove the decision to close the main building for at least two months.
“The alternative would have been port-a-potties on the porch,” Savage said.
“We didn’t really need more space, we just needed to make better use of the space we had,” Fuerst added of a building that last year served 350,000 visitors.
Fuerst thanked the Friends of the Vernon Area Public Library and a few private donors, who made “generous” contributions to help pay for the project with cash. Goldstein said this project should bring Lincolnshire’s library to the edge of the field.
“Everybody thinks that the internet is the death of libraries,” he said, “but libraries are the information world.”
And they will still be, in some rooms at least, a quiet world. Savage and Fuerst spoke of using “normal” voices in the cafe and a slightly lower tone in the main floor…and maybe shushing each other by the fireplace, if need be.
“It’s a loud world we live in,” Fuerst said. “We wanted to preserve that, as well.”