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By Devin Rose
After years of discussion, architects are developing plans for a redesigned and more welcoming lobby space at the Oak Park Public Library.
Executive Director Dee Brennan said talks to improve the space have been ongoing since she started there six years ago. The goal of the project is to make a better impression as the first place customers enter, she said.
When the building at 834 Lake St. opened in 2003, the staff and architects knew the design wasn't ideal, Brennan said. Since then, they've talked about where to place the circulation and security desks, and discussed the relationship between the vestibule and the lobby. The new space would be smaller and more modular — with everything located closer to the elevator and stairs.
The re-do would make better use of the large space and provide better traffic flow, but they will also remain sensitive to the fact that many visitors like to see a staff member when they come in, Brennan said. She said patrons like staff to greet them and direct them to services in the library even if there may not be a traditional circulation desk in the future. Board Vice President David Sokol said the redesign would take librarians out from behind desks so they can be available to help customers.
The project also calls for the installation of more self-checkout kiosks in the lobby. The library was one of the first in the country a decade ago to install the stations, but Brennan said the early-generation software has some functional issues now. People want to be able to use them to pay fines, and the proposed eight or nine new stations with upgraded software will allow them to do so.
Brennan said there may put a plexiglass wall behind the circulation area to turn the back part of the lobby into an extra room. Meeting minutes from the library's board of trustees say that architect Don McKay proposed a "Neighbors Space" that could function as a lounge area with comfortable couches and tables. The lounge would be visible from the street and could be configured for one-day events or act as a meeting space, the minutes said.
Brennan noted that the project is expected to cost around $300,000. The library's 2013 budget is expected to be passed this week. If the project is approved, the redo could be completed by the end of next summer to be ready for the library's 10th anniversary next October, Brennan said.