By JOHN HUGGINS | For The Prairie Advocate News
LANARK – A decade long dream, years of planning, and months of construction; and the new location of the Lanark Public Library is only weeks away from fruition.
The City of Lanark moved City Hall into its new home at 111 South Broad Street on Wednesday, January 16. The drop box for water bills is on the right side of the entrance. Citizens are asked to use the new drop box instead of the one on Carroll Street.
The library board held their first meeting in the new location on Thursday, January 17. The city council will have had its first regular council meeting in the new council chambers on Tuesday, January 22.
The library is making its plans to move into the new building in the next few weeks, and an open house is being planned, but no specific dates have been set.
In June of 2004, the Lanark City Council purchased the building that was known most recently as Hart’s Garage, nestled between the old Comfort Station and Zier’s Garage, with the plans of it being the new home of the Lanark Public Library. The purchase price was $49,500. A referendum to help fund the renovation of the building was voted down in 2005.
With limited funds available, and environmental concerns of contamination from years of being an automotive repair business, the project ground to a standstill. In the meantime, the building was used to house city maintenance equipment.
The City applied and received a Brownfield grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. After assessment and some minor remediation, the property was cleared of its Brownfields status. The total amount received through the grant totaled a little over $78,000.
More formal planning resumed in 2009. The Library Board’s “Vision for the Future” took a big step toward reality. In early 2010, Request for Qualifications (RFQ) were sent out to 13 firms for architectural services. Bray Architects, the firm that designed the addition/renovation of Eastland High School expansion the year prior, was awarded the contract.
In June of 2012, Ringland Johnson General Contractors began the construction phase of the project. The contractors had hoped to have it completed by Thanksgiving. However, with several change orders and a few material discrepancies, the project extended into early January.
A majority of the construction is complete, but there are a few small things to put the finishing touch on. The total cost of the renovations, so far, is approximately $900,000. Grants totaling $550,000 have been acquired to help offset the cost. About $305,000 of the budget has been covered city funds. The remainder has come out of the library’s budget and through generous donations.
On Monday, January 14 a walk through was held at the new building so that the library director and several city officials could be shown how some of the controls work, such as, the automatic thermostats, automatic shut off lights, and the alarm system.
Matt Magil, Lanark Police Chief; Les Guenzler, Maintenance Supervisor for the City; and Dan Shaulis, representing the fire department, took a more in-depth tour of the utility room to see how the HVAC and the fire protection alarm and sprinkler systems work.
As you enter the building, you find yourself in a large foyer with City Hall on the right. Also on the right, just beyond City Hall are ADA accessible restrooms. Ahead and slightly to the right is the City Council chambers and Lanark history and genealogy area. On the left is a wooden bench underneath a glass enclosed bulletin board. Ahead and slightly to the left is the library.
Also in the foyer you will find a project renovation plaque (see photo) listing the current president and v. p. of the library board and library director; current city council members; project partners; and the major funders including the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Illinois Secretary of State and the Illinois State Library, the City of Lanark, and the Lanark Public Library.
In the foyer you will also find the water cooler drinking fountains and water bottle filling station (see photo) donated by Elkay Manufacturing. The bottle filling station includes a digital readout of how many plastic bottles have been saved so far.
The entire building meets all Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. From doorways to switches and fire alarms to drinking fountains to restrooms, everything is now in compliance. And, anyone familiar with the Carroll St. location will definitely appreciate the spacious aisles the new library will provide.
In the east end of the building is a separate space dedicated to the future home of the Lanark police department. The only access to this space is from the outside through the alley. There is no direct access from the main part of the building. However, that project is several years away, according to city officials. In the meantime, the room will be used for storage.
The library board also has plans to have a mural in the foyer dedicated to those who have made sizeable donations that will be painted by a local artist. No sketches have been presented yet. But, the favored idea from the library board is that of a large maple tree.
Lanark was once known as the “Maple City,” and is now referred to as a “Tree City.” The leaves would show individuals who have made significant donations. The largest donators may be represented by the trunk, rocks, or benches beneath the tree.
Plans for the children’s area will also showcase local talent with a quilt created by the Lake Carroll Quilters hanging on the wall. The “tree” theme is also continued in the children’s area with ceiling tiles featuring maple leaves.
Many large and small donations have been received for the project so far. The Friends of the Lanark Public Library have worked very hard to gather donations and operate a used book store called “Twice Sold Tales.” Exchange State Bank and the Lanark Lions Club have given quite generous gifts. Many private donations have been made as well.
Library director Janie Dollinger is looking forward to using the new book drop.
“The one we have now is small and during the summer reading programs we would have to empty it daily, even on the weekends,” she stated. “And the lock is outside, so in the winter we would have to cover it with a plastic bag to keep it from freezing.”
The Next Chapter
Even when the library is finally moved in and operational, the project will not be finished. The next phase, titled “The Next Chapter” by the library board, will be to provide some of the furnishings still needed to fill the space. New shelving, tables, chairs, and other library specific furniture is required.
Anyone interested in making a donation, whether anonymous, in your name, or a loved one’s name, you are encouraged to contact the library or a library board member.