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updated: 1/11/2018 1:05 PM

Aspen Drive Library expansion plan coming to a vote

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After years of discussions, the Cook Memorial Public Library District board this month is expected to formally approve a $6.75 million expansion of the Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills.

The proposal calls for a 15,000-square-foot, rectangular addition on the northeast side of the existing 20,000-square-foot building. Half the addition will be at ground level, and the other half will be a basement that, at least for now, will be unfinished and used for storage.

The basement could be developed in the future, Cook Memorial Director David Archer said.

The addition will give the library an L-shape and create a landscaped courtyard behind the facility. The parking lot would be enlarged, too.

Funding will come from savings, a loan and other fundraising efforts -- but not a tax increase.

"It's an affordable plan," library board President Bonnie Quirke said.

A vote is scheduled for the board's Jan. 23 meeting at the Cook Park Library, 413 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville. That session is set for 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

The Aspen Drive Library opened in 2010 as a sister facility to the Cook Park Library. It was part of a $14 million construction project that also included the expansion and renovation of the Cook Park building.

Aspen was an immediate hit with Vernon Hills-area residents, who for years had been relegated to using a small branch library in their town or driving north to Cook Park if they wanted to use a district facility.

Cook Memorial patrons checked out roughly 1.4 million items during the 2017 fiscal year, officials said. Of those, about 411,000 items came from the Aspen Drive Library.

On some days, available tables and chairs are hard to find at Aspen. Reserved slots for the library's two study rooms typically fill quickly, too.

"I knew when we cut the ribbon, Aspen was too small," Quirke said. "The need is there."

Library officials started investigating expansion options in 2013. Planning really got going in 2017 when the board hired a Chicago firm called Product Architecture + Design to develop preliminary designs.

If the board votes to build, design work could be completed this spring and summer and construction could start in spring 2019, Archer said.

Ideally, the expansion would be ready for patrons in fall 2019, Archer said.

The board's plan has Aspen's children's department move into the addition. That will free up space in the existing building for more adult seating, study rooms and digital studios and a makerspace lab, Archer said.

Quirke said the board isn't proposing a bigger addition out of "concern for the taxpayer." The plan leaves plenty of space on the library property for future growth.

"We certainly have options down the road," Quirke said.

Operations won't be interrupted during construction, Archer said. At the most, services and hours could be modified infrequently based on construction needs.