Project Burnham-Proposed Library Renovation

 Projected-Lobby.jpg - 438.03 kB

*Projected Concept-Main Floor Ottawa Street Lobby 


The Joliet Public Library is excited to announce that we are exploring the renovation and modernization of the interior of our historic Ottawa Street Branch. The focus of the renovation is to provide the Joliet community with updated library spaces and improved access to library resources. The project will create an inviting downtown destination for the community, and serve as an indoor compliment to the adjacent future City Square. 

It was the Library’s original architect, Daniel Burnham who famously said “Make no little plans, they have no power to stir men’s blood.” The Library has been making big plans for the Ottawa Street location, which was originally built in 1903, for years. As part of the Library’s Strategic Planning Process which began in 2015, the Library Board identified creating a master plan for building renovations as a top goal. View the full timeline here.   

Engberg Anderson Presentation to Joliet City Council

Preliminary Floor Plans

Projected Concept Images

Click here to watch the interview with Library Director Megan Millen and Communications Coordinator Mallory Hewlett about Project Burnham, featured on "Profiles" with Richard Fredrickson

What changes will be made?:

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

“Downtown Joliet is in the midst of a grand renaissance and residents are starting to desire downtown living,” said Executive Director of the Library, Megan Millen. “The Marriot Corporation has found downtown Joliet desirable enough to invest in an $18M new hotel project. With several other projects underway or in the offing, now is the perfect time to improve our diamond in the rough Public Library. We imagine families playing in the City Square, enjoying the downtown restaurants, and then going inside the beautifully renovated Library. We envision students from JJC and the University of St. Francis spending time between classes and collaborating in one of our new state-of-the-art study rooms. We picture business owners recording promotional videos in our revamped Digital Media Studio.” 

Project Goals and Design Requirements 

How much will the renovation cost?:

The total estimated cost for the project is $10.5 million. While planning for the project for many years and responsible budgeting, the Library has set aside $4 million in reserves to help fund this project. The Library has requested an estimated $6.5 million from the City of Joliet to be included in the 2020 budget.

Cost to Residents: 

$6.5 million 20 year bond

Projected Burnham cost to Joliet Residents:

Fair Market Value of a $150,000 home: $6.21 a year

Fair Market Value of a $200,000 home: $8.56 a year

Average Joliet Home Value: $166,000

Breakdown of Preliminary Project Budget and Funding

When would construction start?:

We are still in the pre-funding phase of the project. We hope to be included in the City of Joliet’s 2020 budget, announced later this year (2019). Watch this space, our monthly newsletter, and our social media to keep up to date on our next steps. If approved by City Council, construction could start in late 2020. 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 2018, the Joliet Public Library provided over 3,000 free programs for adults, children and young adults at both their locations, welcoming over 90,500 attendees. The Library has a collection of 267,620 printed materials and over 56,000 e-Books. The Ottawa Street Branch welcomed about 175,000 visitors last year. 

“As the third largest city in Illinois, Joliet should have a modern public library that reflects the changing needs of a resurging downtown,” said Millen. “Joliet Public Library, in the heart of downtown, can be an  anchor to economic development and growth. Together with the City of Joliet, we can create a unique and fabulous destination for our community.” 

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.

What can I do to show support?

Contact your Joliet City Council representative to let them know you support the Joliet Public Library's proposed renovation, Project Burnham. You can find your Councilmember information here.

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 results. In 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. 

Media Contact 

Mallory Hewlett · 815-846-3124 · 

Next steps: 

Current Status for Fall 2019: Joliet City Council will make a decision whether or not to include $6.5 million in the 2020 budget later this year.

August 19, 2019: Presentation to full City Council

July 27, 2019: Preliminary plans will be presented to the Joliet City Council at their meeting on August 19, 2019. 

More projected design concepts: 

*Chicago Street Entry

*Lower Level




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