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Bloomington Public Library gets $5.7 million state grant for expansion

New library entrance
Bloomington Public Library
Bloomington Public Library officials are retooling their planned expansion after the project was awarded a $5.7 million grant.

The Bloomington Public Library has received a $5.7 million state grant that library officials say could reduce the city’s debt for a planned expansion, but it also could enable the library to restore parts of the project that were cut to save money.

The library announced the grant from the Illinois State Library on Monday — part of $9.6 million awarded to libraries statewide for capital projects.

Bloomington Public Library director Jeanne Hamilton said the library will propose the city reduce its borrowing amount from $17 million to $14.2 million, but the project cost would increase to $25.2 million from $22.8 million.

“Things like shelving and tables and desks and those sorts of things, we think that we’ll be able to add that portion back into the budget and at the same time reduce the amount of the bond that we’ll be asking for,” Hamilton said.

The library expansion, which has been years in the making, was previously targeted in the $37 million range, but was scaled back after the city council balked at that price tag. Hamilton said the library still plans to use $4 million in reserves and will look to raise an additional $1.2 million privately.

Hamilton said the Bloomington Public Library project barely made the cut through the Public Library Construction Act Grant’s competitive application process.

“They ran out of money in our ranking slot, so libraries that were ranked under us did not receive money this year,” she said.

The grant is contingent on the library securing at least $15 million in matching funds by the end of the state’s fiscal year. The council already has signaled its support for using $17 million to finance most of the project.

The city's proposed $6.1 million library tax levy would represent a $30 increase in property taxes for the owner of a $165,000 home. The city council is scheduled to take a final vote on the levy at its Dec. 13 meeting.

Hamilton said the grant would allow for a lower bond to enable the library to repay the money more quickly.

“If the bond is lower than we anticipated, then we would put that levy towards future repayment years of the bond,” Hamilton said.

Library officials say the expansion will add 20,000 square feet to the building’s footprint and renovate more than 57,000 square feet of current space.

Bloomington library officials say the 16-month expansion is scheduled for completion in August 2023. The library was built in 1976.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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