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Bloomington Library Seeks 'Scaled Down' Expansion; Price Tag Still Unknown

Bloomington Public Library entrance
WGLT file photo
Bloomington Public Library
Bloomington Public Library officials say a planned expansion will have to include flexible space to meet growing demands.

Bloomington Public Library officials say they don't have a firm dollar amount they are willing to spend on a planned expansion, but they say it will be scaled down from previous plans the city has rejected.

Jeanne Hamilton and Julian Westerhout
Credit Eric Stock / WGLT
Bloomington Public Library director Jeanne Hamilton and president of the Library's Board of Trustees Julian Westerhout said the board plans to select an architect to develop a scaled-down expansion plan.

The library plans to hire an architect in January to come up with multiple options for the library to address its space needs. The library’s Board of Trustees has issued a request for proposals that it plans to review in December.

Library director Jeanne Hamilton said those plans will help answer one key question.

“What price range can we get to where we feel like the needs are being met but also that the community is supportive of and has an appetite to be able to handle?" Hamilton asked.

Hamilton added the library has about $3 million in reserves for a capital project and would launch a fundraising campaign to help cover the remainder of what’s needed.

City manager Tim Gleason has said the city could help an expansion that's in the $10 million to $12 million range.

President of the Library's Board of Trustees Julian Westerhout says the library understands the need to expand through the use of flexible space to reduce the size and cost of the project.

“There’s a lot of things that the city wants to do and we don’t have unlimited money, so I think that there is a growing consensus that we need to sort of maximize our opportunities in a sensible way,” Westerhout said.

The library board has remained steadfast in its desire to expand at its current site, rather than be including in larger economic development projects that city officials and others have proposed, including the downtown catalyst project, the vacant property near Illinois Wesleyan University and State Farm’s former downtown building which was recently sold.

Westerhout said none of those projects were feasible for the library to undertake.

“They really weren’t particularly feasible and in some cases were an effort, a good-intentioned effort, to use the library to help solve other problems, which is not a bad thing if you can have a win-win.

“None of these plans really had a basis in reality as far as whether or not they would come to fruition or be a good use of taxpayer dollars.”

Westerhout said the board hopes construction could begin within the next two years.

The library previously expanded in 2006, but Hamilton said that only gave the library 25% more space, while the city's population has nearly doubled since the library was built in the 1970s.

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