Library Renovation: Project Burnham

 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.   

In April 2018, the Library began working with consultant Anders Dahlgren of Library Planning Associates to pinpoint the spatial needs of both the Ottawa Street and Black Road branches. After assessing his findings, the Library Board decided to address the Ottawa Street Branch’s needs. 

In March 2019, after an extensive RFQ process, the Library Board engaged Engberg Anderson Architects to work with staff to develop preliminary floor plans and drawings.  As of July, the Library Board has approved draft floor plans and the architects are working on 3-D models and accurate cost estimates. 

The Joliet Public 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 Burnahm 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.” 

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. If approved, construction could start in late 2020. Library officials plan to keep the building open during construction. 

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.” 

For more information, visit join our mailing list. 

Media Contact 

Mallory Hewlett · 815-846-3124 · 

Next steps: 

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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