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'Perseverance pays off': Bloomington Public Library breaks ground on $25 million expansion

A jubilant crowd of public officials, donors and the general public gathered at the Bloomington Public Library on Thursday to witness the groundbreaking of the new library expansion.

The expansion will add more than 21,000 square feet to the current building, renovate more than 50,000 square feet of the current library and add additional parking space.

Some highlights of the expansion include eight more study rooms, a computer lab, two recording studios, and an innovation lab. Quality-of-life improvements will also be made, like more accessible shelves and wider aisles.

Jeanne Hamilton
Emily Bollinger
Bloomington Public Library director Jeanne Hamilton spoke to a crowd during a ceremonial groundbreaking for a $25 million expansion.

The idea to expand the library first picked up steam in 2000 after the Bloomington population nearly doubled from the library’s opening in 1977. Since then, the proposal has undergone much scrutiny and rehashes. But more than two decades later, plans for an expanded public library are about to become reality.

Library director Jeanne Hamilton said it’s a big relief the project is underway, and that it will help Bloomington in numerous ways.

“The hard work and perseverance has finally paid off,” said Hamilton. “This project will improve library services to the community, and allow the library to meet the community’s current and emerging needs … which address population growth, improve the aging facility, increase accessibility for individuals of all abilities, and implement unique solutions to facility needs.”

Population growth was recognized by multiple speakers at the ceremony, including Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe. He said with more and more eyes on Bloomington, the city must continue to grow with the population.

“At a moment where our community is experiencing unprecedented growth, we recognize that many individuals and businesses are keeping a close eye on our community,” said Mwilambwe. “It is therefore important that we spruce up our facilities, particularly one whose use has grown exponentially over the years, despite the limited investments in the past.”

The groundbreaking ceremony marks the start of phase one of the expansion and renovation project. Phase 1, the west half of the building, is scheduled to reach completion in May 2023. The east side, phase 2, will finish in September of the same year.

Funding for the project is set at $25.2 million. The library received $1.25 million from donations and a $5.7 million grant from the state of Illinois. A $14.2 million bond and $4.1 million in library reserve funds will cover the rest of the expenses.

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Jack Podlesnik is a student reporter and announcer at WGLT. He joined the station in 2021.
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