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The first thing you might notice when walking into the renovated Forest Park Public Library at 7555 Jackson Blvd. is how much more light there is. The staff offices, which used to occupy the area behind the circulation desk, have been relocated, allowing natural brightness in through the windows.

“We love the light in here,” said Pilar Shaker, library director. “It’s worth having our offices on the lower level to open up the space like this.”

Library construction, which began in September 2019, was completed on Jan. 17. Now, finishing touches, such as assembling furniture and putting everything in place, are being made in anticipation of the soft reopening of the entire library, including all its spaces, on Monday Jan. 27.

Throughout construction, different sections of the library were open to the public at different times to accommodate the renovation.

Shaker, as quoted on the library’s website, said, “It was essential to the Board of Trustees and myself that we stay open as much as possible, to continue to provide as many services as possible. The community has been extremely understanding and flexible. We have appreciated the team spirit shown by our patrons and fellow community organizations during this renovation.”

Throughout construction, children’s story times were held at the Howard Mohr Community Center and other events at the Park District of Forest Park.

The $1.3 million project, which doesn’t include an additional $50,000 from the Live and Learn Construction Grant to address ADA accessibility, most notably features a new commons area, a new young adult space, a new quiet room, a new program room, four new study rooms, updated restrooms including the addition of a single stall restroom, and an updated youth services department, meeting room, lobby and staff spaces.

Alicia Hammond, community engagement manager at the library, said that although a lot has been added, there was no need for a structural addition to the building.

“When we did the original assessment, we realized we had enough space; we just needed to reorganize where things were located,” said Hammond.

Shaker gave thanks to the Howard Mohr Community Center and park district for hosting events during the library construction. And she said the village administration made the process easy from beginning to end.

“[Village Administrator] Tim Gillian was so supportive throughout the entire process,” said Shaker.

The library will be hosting an all-ages party to celebrate the newly renovated building at a grand opening party on Saturday, Feb. 8 p.m. from 3 to 5 p.m., with the official ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3 p.m. The Kettlestrings Band will provide music, food will be served, and there will be activities, including demonstrations of the library’s 3D printer, an appearance by the library’s mascot Shelly the Turtle, arts and crafts, and tours. Library swag, including T-shirts, will be available on a first-come basis.

The library’s young adult department, popular among local teens, is also hosting an after-hours party and preview of the brand-new young adult lounge on Feb. 7 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. This event, geared for teens, will feature music, treats and a special craft.