Local News

Newly expanded Huntley Library to reopen Feb. 7: ‘A world of difference’

Renovations feature larger children’s area, new tech, creative and teen spaces

When the Huntley Area Public Library fully reopens on Feb. 7, patrons will see an entirely different library.

Closed since Dec. 31 to wrap up a two-year building program, the library at 11000 Ruth Road has undergone a $12.9 million expansion and complete renovation. The library originally was set to reopen Jan. 24, but library board members decided Wednesday to extend the closure.

Additional time is needed to complete the project, which includes a 21,200-square-foot addition and a 15,300-square-foot renovation to the existing building, officials said.

Once open, patrons will find fresh, new spaces and programs.

“It’s a world of difference,” said Doug Cataldo, head of marketing and communications for the library. “I can’t wait for people to see it. It’s almost in many ways unrecognizable, which is really cool. It looks brand new. There are a whole lot of opportunities and services that we’ve never been able to offer to our community before.”

Among the library’s additions are a new “music studio and makerspace to support the ever-increasing virtual learning environment,” a computer lab and classroom, a drive-up window, more meeting rooms for programming and community events and a larger children’s area, library officials said.

Along with the additional space will come new programming.

The effort has resulted in an “engaging hub of learning, creativity and connection,” officials said.

“Our new and improved library is the perfect gathering space for the community, and the dedication of the stakeholders involved is reflected in every detail,” said Frank Novak, director of the Huntley Area Public Library District. “We look forward to celebrating the building’s opening with all who have contributed to the success of this important project.”

Extra classroom and computer space will allow patrons to take part in new classes, such as those focused on job searching, résumé creation and other skill-building activities, Cataldo said.

Through an about $50,000 state grant, the library was able to add a new instructor position, he said. The grant also provided six Chromebooks.

Along with programs related to job skills, the instructor will teach classes in the library’s new creative studio space, where patrons will find items, such as sewing machines and 3D printers and scanners.

The library’s new entrance and drive-up window will allow patrons to conveniently drop off or pick up materials, Cataldo said.

And with the expansion of the children’s library, children will be able to “play without using their quiet voices,” officials said.

The children’s area once had seating for up to 32 people, but now can hold 150 or more in an area that can be divided into three program rooms when needed or used as one large space, Cataldo said.

“It allows us to hold multiple programs at once,” he said. “We can have storytime in one of the program rooms and a senior coffee next to it, with both running simultaneously.”

Huntley-area history is featured throughout the addition and renovation, as the exterior supports the existing contextual building design and historic features. Inside the library, collections of historical and local artifacts continue to carry on the community’s cultural legacy.

Patrons also will find a sort of community hub with more conference space, tutoring tables and teen areas, including a gaming room.

“Pretty much everything we laid out here and went forward with were things that were suggested from the community through surveys and focus groups,” Cataldo said. “We did a lot of research and meetings leading up to this whole project. … [The community] had a fair share of input. We tried to basically touch on a little of everything from all different areas, and hopefully they’ll like the results.”

Because of the new setup, the library now can offer after-hour programs without having to keep the main library open, he said.

The public will have access to a 10-person conference room for business or group meetings, and another smaller room with a whiteboard will provide space for collaboration among four to six people.

The gaming room in the library’s first-ever Teen Space will feature Nintendo Switch, where patrons can try out games before buying, Cataldo said.

“We’re going to add to that slowly, and make it better as time goes on,” he said.

In fact, the goal is to continually add to all of the library’s programs and spaces “as [COVID-19] and time allows,” he said.

“The hope is when things normalize a little bit we’ll be able to have a solid amount of consistent new programming starting in March or April,” he said.

A $12.9 million bond approved by voters in April 2019 funded the library expansion. Wold Architects and Engineers, the project’s architect, engaged staff, local representatives and stakeholders through an “Innovation Day” to understand the wants and needs of community members, officials said. Wold also assisted with Huntley Library staff to obtain additional grants to fund the project.

“We’re proud of this newly renovated and expanded library and are grateful for the opportunity to work with the Huntley community again to create a space that will serve those who live here for many years to come,” said Roger Schroepfer, partner at Wold Architects and Engineers.

A few factors, including a roof issue, a supply chain issue with some of the equipment and furniture and needed adjustments to the drive-thru window, delayed the library’s opening from January to February, officials said.

While the library remains closed, no fines will accumulate, no materials will be due and regular library services will not be available. Most digital and online services will be available.

Holds placed for pickup the library after Dec. 16 will not become available until after the building reopens, but holds for pickup at other libraries can be placed during the closure.