Huntley Area Public Library to close ahead of final phase of $12.9 million expansion project
Huntley Area Public Library staff are preparing for what they affectionately call "the big smoosh," the stage in the library's ongoing expansion project that entails moving its operations, books, shelves and all, into the new, roughly 18,000-square-foot building on the east side of the main building.
This move will require the library to close March 15 to April 26 but will make way for the final phase of construction to begin: the renovation of the old building, which together with the new space, will bring a whole new world of adventure to the Huntley community, the library's marketing director said.
"I don't think they're going to recognize this building anymore on the inside," Doug Cataldo, the library's head of marketing, said in an interview Monday. "There's just a lot of opportunities for the community to utilize, explore and visit and learn. It's everything you can think of under the sun for teens, adults, kids, every genre, every age group. It's going to be exciting."
The new building has an "enormous" children's area and three new adjoining program rooms, giving the library the space to offer more programming for all ages, Cataldo said. It will also provide larger fiction and nonfiction areas and additional office space for staff.
The addition mimics the old building's '90s-style architecture, protecting the nostalgic feeling that many library-goers have come to love, Cataldo said.
The original building will be converted into a community hub of sorts, with a large teen area featuring study rooms and tutoring tables, as well as space to "chill out" and play video games, he said.
A "creative studio" will be equipped with everything from 3-D printers to virtual reality devices to Adobe Creative Cloud programs, allowing residents to learn about things they may not otherwise have had access to, Cataldo said. Finally, a new production studio will be available for those who may want to start a podcast, film a commercial, or record an album.
During the six-week closure, the library's digital services will be available and residents will not be penalized for holding on to library materials until the April reopening, Cataldo said.
"If you want to download e-books or you want to learn a new language or you want to create a craft through creative bug or you need a tutorial on something, ... all of those will still be available," he said.
The facility's book drop will not be available as it will be replaced with a new drive-up window where residents can return items and pick up books they have placed on hold, Cataldo said.
The library will resume operations April 26 out of the new building and will ask residents to use a temporary entrance and parking lot on the eastern side of the building as the main entrance will be closed, Cataldo said.
The renovation of the main library building has a target completion date of December 2021 and the library will hold a grand opening ceremony in January 2022, he said.
The construction of the new building broke ground in February 2020 after local voters supported a referendum to issue $12.9 million in bonds to fund the project, which resulted in an estimated annual property tax increase of about $57.32, the Northwest Herald reported.
Voters supported the expansion of the library by an estimated 2-to-1 margin.
Huntley Mayor Chuck Sass said while he was surprised to see the overwhelming support for the project, he is "tickled" to watch its progress.
Sass said he sees the wider breadth of services the library will be able to offer with the expanded facility as one of the final pieces of the puzzle to make Huntley a "full service community."
"We've got a hospital, we've got great other taxing bodies in terms of fire, school district, park district, library district and, of course, you can't forget the wonderful village of Huntley," he said.
When the bond referendum was being considered, some concern was raised about funding such a large library expansion project in an increasingly digital age, Sass said. He said he was happy to hear about the myriad job training, as well as creative and digital services that will also be offered at the new and improved facility.