Forest Park Public Library renovations are progressing on schedule and slightly under budget, according to library Director Pilar Shaker. She predicts phase one of the three-phase project should be complete by the end of October, and the entire renovation should be tentatively wrapped up in February.
The first phase of the renovation involves the lower level of the library, which will still house the Austin Room and an expanded youth services department. Staff offices will be relocated to the basement, and the restrooms will be redone to include a family and gender-neutral bathroom.
The teen section, a popular section of the library, will find its new permanent home on the main floor.
“It’s a way for them to transition from young adult library patrons to adult library patrons,” said Shaker. “They’ll get to know the adult staff and the staff will get to know them.”
Community Engagement Manager Alicia Hammond added that it will be nice for the teens not to have to share a space with the little kids.
“Sometimes the teens don’t want to have to cross through the toddlers’ space to get to their own area. Now they’ll have their own dedicated space,” Hammond said.
The new teen area will provide patrons with a social side for interacting and a quiet side for studying or silent reading.
Phase two, tentatively scheduled to be completed in January, is all about the main floor of the library, including the new young adult/teen area. During this phase, scheduled to begin at the end of October, most of the main level of the library will be closed off, and services will function on the lower level.
In addition to the new teen programming area on the main floor, other changes include the addition of four new study rooms; a program room that can be used for meetings, classes, or crafting; a quiet reading room for those who desire a traditionally quiet library space; two public computer areas; a renovated adult services department, including better zoning separating quiet and more social areas, new carpeting and better lighting; a new lounge area; and a renovated lobby and restrooms. In addition, with office and staff areas being relocated to the lower level, there will be new social seating areas near the windows.
Phase three is the shortest, and Shaker hopes it will only take 3-4 weeks. During this period, the main level of the library will be inaccessible while new carpeting and finishing touches, such as lighting and painting, are completed. However, services will still be available. During this time, computers will be relocated to the Austin Room on the lower level and a small adult collection will be available there as well.
“We only anticipate a period of a few days of complete shutdown,” said Shaker, while the staff moves everything into place once the renovation is complete.
Both Shaker and Hammond stressed that renovation so far wouldn’t have gone so smoothly without the help of the community.
“The village has provided us so much support from the very beginning,” said Shaker. “Both [Village Administrator] Tim Gillian and [Director of Public Health and Safety] Steve Glinke have been available and extremely helpful.”
The Community Center has been hosting library events, including story times for children, allowing the library to continue its programming uninterrupted. And the park district has hosted events as well.
“There has been so much community support,” said Shaker, including the partner libraries in neighboring towns who have honored cards from Forest Park and allowed Forest Park Public Library book groups to meet in their spaces.
Shaker also gave a shout-out to the “amazing construction manager” Jason Perkunas of Shales McNutt Construction. “He’s the hero of the project,” she said. “He figured out how to put the least amount of imposition on patrons and staff and how to cut costs but not quality along the way.”