If you thought the Forest Park Public Library was bustling before the current and substantial renovations, we’d advise you to wait until next week. That’s when the official reopening takes place, not that the Desplaines Avenue institution ever came close to shutting down during its four-month construction project. It was its usual beehive, just with hardhats.
This was not a renovation aimed at refreshing color schemes or carpet patterns. This was, at $1.3 million, a thoroughgoing remaking aimed at emphasizing the most essential and inclusive efforts provided by a library which not too many years back would have rightly been called sleepy. But not now.
The Forest Park library — its leaders, its staff, its board — has embraced teens, technology, and its status as the gathering place for everyone in the village. That explains new common areas, new young adult space, new program areas, more ADA accessibility. It explains why staff offices have been removed to the lower level while a light-filled first floor has been remade for patrons.
We appreciate a renovation plan that did not call for blowing the roof off, did not require a major tax referendum. The library board saved carefully, planned with thoughtful ambition, reached out to its partners for help and executed with precision. Nice to see library officials offer sincere thanks to the Community Center and the Park District for absorbing some programming during construction. Not unusual but encouraging to see the library offer thanks to Village Administrator Tim Gillian for his efforts to support this project.
The party marking the new and improved library will be Saturday, Feb. 8 from 3 to 5 p.m. Tours, of course, plus live music, food, arts and crafts, library swag, and a visit from Shelly the Turtle, the library mascot. We will explore in a future edition of the Forest Park Review why the library has a mascot, why it is a turtle and why it is named Shelly.