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Frequently Asked Questions


What changes will be made and how will the remodel improve services?:

The Library have been good stewards of the historic building by replacing the roof, chiller, an elevator and windows, but have foregone any major interior renovations to the Ottawa Street building since the addition was built nearly 30 years ago in 1991. Project Burnham will address lighting controls, aging building systems, accessibility and plumbing requirements, goals of the project include:

  • Separate floor just for children and families
  • A magical discovery zone for youth to encourage creative play and learning
  • Individual and collaborative study spaces. Currently the Ottawa Street Branch has no private study rooms or designated quiet areas.
  • Improved digital media and maker spaces which are already wildly popular at the Library
  • Larger, more extensive Local History Room
  • Opening of the Chicago Street entrance to allow easier access to pedestrians

How much will the renovation cost?:

The total estimated cost for the project is $10.5 million. The funding for Project Burnham will be from $4.2 million in library reserves and a city-issued bond, funded through a state grant for $6.3 million. 

Cost to Residents:

Funding will not come from Joliet property taxes. To learn more about the funding, please read the press release here. 

Can the library go for a referendum vote to pass the project?
No. The Joliet Public Library, unlike many district libraries in neighboring communities, is a municipal library. Our board is appointed by the Mayor and our levy is approved by City Council each year. We are not our own separate taxing body, but under the City of Joliet, and do not have the ability to sell bonds on our own. If an advisory referendum was done in the community, regardless of the outcome, the City Council would still need to vote yes or no on the issue. The appropriate avenue to seek capital funds for us as a municipal library is to request Council approval.

If you have $4 million saved, can the library start the project with that money and get the rest later?:

For a project of this size, contractors will not bid without proof of secure funding of the entire amount of the project. In this case, that means money from both the library's reserves and the City of Joliet selling bonds on our behalf for a total project cost of $10.5 million. Additionally, breaking the project up into parts would result in significant cost escalation (about 4% per year) which would raise the cost of the project. 

When was the last time the library made any major upgrades to the OSB?

1991, the year the addition was built.

When would construction start?:

Construction started in April 2021 and is expected to last until Fall of 2022. Library officials plan to keep the building open during construction unless it becomes an issue of public/staff safety or access.

Who uses the library?:

In 2019, the Joliet Public Library provided over 2,400 free programs for adults, children and young adults at both of their locations, welcoming over 93,000 attendees. The Library has a collection of 245,331 printed materials and over 57,000 e-books. The Ottawa Street Branch welcomed about 163,000 visitors last year.

Will you be changing the look or historic feel of the Library?

While the interior of the Library will receive a modern upgrade, it is a priority of ours to keep Daniel Burnham’s vision alive. We plan to mirror many of the touches from the original building while upgrading and modernizing the space. Our history is a part of who we are, and we plan to preserve that.

How are you gathering community input?

As part of the strategic planning process in 2015, the Library conducted a community survey (with 659 responses). Click here to see the resultsIn early 2019, Anders Dahlgren of Library Planning and Associates held a series of focus groups gathering input from many different stakeholders. The community identified improving the Library's physical space as a top goal.

How can I learn more about this?

You can receive updates by joining our mailing list and following us on Facebook. If you have further questions, please contact us at 815-740-2660.







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