NEWARK – Ashley Hartman and her two daughters are loyal visitors to the Charles B. Phillips Public Library in Newark.
“We love our library,” Hartman said as daughters Vivian, 5, and Audrey, 2, dressed for Halloween, were busy using crayons to color drawings.
Hartman regularly brings her two young ones to children’s storytime and other activities at the library.
With a recently completed expansion project that has more than doubled the size of the library building and opened new possibilities for programming and community meetings, Hartman figures she and her daughters will be visiting even more frequently.
“This will be really great for the community,” Hartman said.
The library expansion project was on full display Oct. 22 for an open house that attracted a steady stream of adults and children.
The L-shaped building addition wraps around the south and east sides of the original structure, with the key component being creation of a 985-square-foot community meeting room designed to accommodate about 100 people.
The addition has changed the appearance of the building’s facade, with a sunroom projecting toward the street and providing library patrons with a quiet space to read. The space connects directly with the meeting room through wide double doors.
Other features of the new addition to the library are public restrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a new office for the director and a storage room.
Library board member Barb Sucich, long an advocate for library expansion, was pleased with the result.
“It’s bigger and better than I thought it ever could be,” Sucich said.
The addition also allows the library to make better and more efficient use of the space its already had, especially the children’s room where the Hartman girls were coloring.
“We’ve got something going on almost every day because now we’ve got the space for it,” library board President Dave Drew said.
Library circulation manager Lea Ann Stoughton said the expansion has created interest in the library, its programs and materials.
“We’ve had a lot of people coming in to get library cards,” Stoughton said.
“The expansion has produced a lot of attention in the community, and people want to see what’s going on,” Drew said.
For Melissa Turner, who handles adult programming and marketing, and Fawnia Stanford, who is in charge of children’s programming, the expansion has provided them with the space they need.
The library’s calendar of regular events includes story times, movies, adult chair yoga, an adult pottery painting class, book clubs and children’s crafting events.
The expansion project brings the library building to almost 6,000 square feet, said construction manager Jason Perkunas of SMC Construction and architect Andy Dogan of Williams Architects.
The $1.5 million addition to the library has been in the planning stages for several years.
Library board members are proud that the entire project is being financed without a tax increase.
Funding sources include a state grant, a 20-year loan and money the district had saved up over the years, Drew said.
Library Director Lynette Heiden secured a $316,225 grant through the Illinois State Library, while amassing another $300,000 for the project through careful financial management. The bulk of the funding will come from an $802,000 loan.
One reason the library will be able to service the debt is that the rural library district expanded its geographic boundaries after a successful 2016 referendum.
The expanded district includes Lisbon and even a small portion of La Salle County. The district also includes Millbrook and a small portion of Millington.
The typical homeowner in the district pays about $130 to $150 a year in property taxes for the library, which now serves about 2,000 residents, who each year check out 20,000 books, DVDs and other materials in the course of 10,000 visits.
Also helping with the expansion project was the Friends of the Library organization, which raised money to pay for the kitchen area at the back of the new meeting room.
The library building was constructed in the early 1960s from a bequest by Charles B. Phillips, for whom the library at Aurora University also is named.
In addition to Drew and Sucich, board members include Karen Breuning, Mark Oldenburg, Larry Stanford, Michael Merline and Joshua Brown.