Oak Park Library lobby may be redone

Plan to make area more welcoming and upgrade self-checkout software

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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

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.

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Posted: December 3rd, 2012 6:59 AM

idea: put a survey box in the lobby and ask the patrons, you know the ones that actually show up, what they think about spending the money. my vote will still be "no".

Mike from Oak Park  

Posted: November 29th, 2012 7:09 PM

If this entrance is so bad.....why didn't the people in charge of design and construction on the library board do something about it before.....when they had a chance. Incompetence should not be rewarded. Stop spending my tax money foolishly!

doug kittredge from oak park  

Posted: November 29th, 2012 6:25 PM

What a bunch of curmudgeons - have you been in the library lately? It isn't just racks of books - people use it for meetings and many other activities. The redesign takes alot of unused space and makes it more useful. We have a great library-use it

Dave Coulter  

Posted: November 29th, 2012 5:09 PM

Green in name: Hey! Thanks for mentioning the Rough Edges blog (powered by the WJ!) It's nature themed mainly, not "green" really & the editors would LOVE it if I ever pulled 40+ comments like this story. I'm clearly writing about the wrong stuff.

Dave Coulter  

Posted: November 29th, 2012 4:54 PM

Green in name: Story said the library was looking at this for years (public meetings I gather). May be for aesthetics or for upkeep, but if a CTA stop gets updated we're happy, yes? Just sayin' - these spaces do need some upkeep.

Lucy Mercer  

Posted: November 29th, 2012 4:42 PM

Why not add showers and laundry facilities for the Homeless- make a comfortable place for them to spend the day- a coffee pot and microwave would be nice- maybe some exercise equipment and headphones

Diana from Oak Park  

Posted: November 29th, 2012 4:22 PM

Every time I read an article about Oak Park I get madder and madder. Why is the Village spending SO MUCH OF OUR money on Scoville Park & now the Library? The library's lobby is just fine and so was the park. How about a tax rebate instead?

Michael Belker  

Posted: November 29th, 2012 3:49 PM

LBD Let.Brad.Decide. Huzzah! He now likes the Scoville project. We shall all sleep well tonight. Using W's tired act of using nicknames like Lib and Belkie is textbook powerplay BS. Life was better in Streeterville. Too bad you could afford Latin.

OP Translpant  

Posted: November 29th, 2012 3:20 PM

300 grand to improve the lobby, but we're not supposed to mention the homeless guy washing his "junk" in the bathroom sink? (Saw it myself.) I didn't find it welcoming, and it didn't make a good "first impression".


Posted: November 29th, 2012 2:25 PM

Spend, spend, spend. Oak Park bureaucrats have no fear of losing their jobs so they spend taxpayer money like it is going out of style. This is what is known as malfeasance. There is no reason to undertake this project.


Posted: November 29th, 2012 10:14 AM

That being said, upgrading the self-checkout software and adding kiosks is a good use of money. Getting staff near the entrance and greeting people as they come and go also is an improvement.


Posted: November 29th, 2012 10:13 AM

I'm a heavy user of the main library but I'm not that thrilled with the notion of a lobby re-do. Granted, it wasn't perfect when built. But the library might have to live with it rather than spend the money on the stated aesthetic improvements.

Green in name only  

Posted: November 29th, 2012 9:41 AM

Dave Coulter, don't you write the "green" column for WJ? $300K isn't "upkeep", it's a major rework of a faulty design, billed as a "green" design btw. Kind of exposes the sham of "green" buildings. How wasteful to have to rebuild every 10 years.

No Recession in OP  

Posted: November 29th, 2012 9:19 AM

How do you do it? All this money available for non-essential projects like Scoville redo and the library. Our residents must have missed the recession entirely or this would make no sense. What is OP's secret? Taxes, who has to worry about taxes!

THE Brad from Oak Park  

Posted: November 29th, 2012 9:12 AM

Don't mind Belker. He's a chronic whiner across all Oak Park internet forums, in addition to a champion of the homeless and supporter of Austin gangbangers. Lib strong, Belkie.

THE Brad from Oak Park  

Posted: November 29th, 2012 9:09 AM

Re: the park project. I was opposed to the Scoville project, but I have to admit that it looks amazing when you drive by now. They've cleaned up the sight lines, added beautiful pavers @ SE corner, etc. It's nice. Library project though? Waste $

THE Brad from Oak Park  

Posted: November 29th, 2012 9:07 AM

Funny @Symmetry Rented some children's dvds last week for our son. None played. Had to clean them thoroughly w/ a dry cloth. Do people not understand you can't touch the bottom of a dvd or spill food and soda on it? Disappointing.

D from OP  

Posted: November 29th, 2012 8:11 AM

It seems so patently irresponsible to propose a $300k do-over of a new building that I'm willing to trust that this story was floated as a trial balloon to guage reaction before recalibrating to a more reasonable position. If not then that would be truly disappointing. As the lede says, the purpose here is to "make a better impression as the first place customers enter." So there's not even a pretense that the product would improve. A vanity project by definition.

Dave Coulter  

Posted: November 29th, 2012 7:51 AM

Anyone involved with maintaining a highly used building knows there is certain amount of upkeep needed. The library after 10 years probably needs some work. And really, quit picking on homeless folks. You've made your points?

Brent from Oak Park  

Posted: November 28th, 2012 10:51 PM

When the library is finished, we can refurbish the war memorial, then redo the parks. "Taxation With Representation is Tyranny"


Posted: November 28th, 2012 7:49 PM

I use the library often, but get in and out quickly. The staff is friendly and helpful, but the building itself is about as inviting and welcoming as a bus station. Hopefully someone capable of changing that will be in charge of design this time.


Posted: November 28th, 2012 2:18 PM

This does seem like an Onion headline! I love this library, and all the library branches we have here in Oak Park. I visit weekly and there is always someone greeting me and i seemed welcomed each visit! This seems wasteful and hope it's a no go!

OP Transplant  

Posted: November 28th, 2012 2:08 PM

I'm all for truck-stop showers in that restroom. I once saw a guy stripped down to his socks in there. Funny now, but I didn't let my kids use the restrooms at the library when they were young. Nice lobby, though.

Amy Williams from Oak Park  

Posted: November 28th, 2012 1:49 PM

I thought this was a joke when I first read it, but no, just more Oak Park wastefulness/ridiculousness. This is an insult to the citizens of OP who must sacrifice to pay their taxes.


Posted: November 28th, 2012 1:15 PM

Anyone notice that the mens bathroom/shower/laundry facility/clean junk in the sink room on the second floor is a little small? Why not knock down some walls and make it bigger with couchs and laundry and showers??? thats what its used for anyways.

Truth to power  

Posted: November 28th, 2012 12:01 PM

OP fancies itself a progressive green community. So, we tear-down a perfectly good library at the very time the world is going digital to build a Taj Mahal. Nothing says "we are green" like wasting resources. Not to mention, the increased taxes.

OP Translant  

Posted: November 28th, 2012 11:24 AM

It's safe to say that this is money that doesn't need to be spent. The current lobby continues to serve the needs of the library's patrons (homeless and otherwise) perfectly well.

Joe Bookman  

Posted: November 28th, 2012 10:50 AM

Belker, I agree with you, but since mental health is not the library's mission, they should at least spend public money responsibly rather than on some library admin's 6 figure vanity project. Lemme guess: if they don't spend the cash they lose it.


Posted: November 28th, 2012 10:36 AM

Brian, my thoughts exactly. They knowingly built an inferior product? It was a waste of money then and history will tell you it will be a waste of money again. It's not their money. So flippant

Lori M.  

Posted: November 28th, 2012 10:12 AM

As you can see in these comments, the court of public opinion has spoken. It's an absurd waste of money and effort.

OP Transplant  

Posted: November 28th, 2012 8:51 AM

Another expensive, taxpayer-funded project that no one really needs and that won't really affect anyone's quality of life? Could this village's governing bodies be any more tone deaf?

Brian Sloiwiak from Oak Park  

Posted: November 28th, 2012 6:53 AM

Third paragraph: "the staff and architects knew the design wasnt ideal".Why wasnt this taken care of when the building was built?

Frequent User  

Posted: November 28th, 2012 5:58 AM

I applaud this heartily! At ten years old, the library is starting to show signs here and there of needing a refresh. Money well spent on an incredible resource that is a vital part of the fabric of our great community!


Posted: November 27th, 2012 9:21 PM

Fix the streets and figure out a way to bring businesses back into the community instead.


Posted: November 27th, 2012 8:54 PM


Mike Lennox from Oak Park  

Posted: November 27th, 2012 8:40 PM

It still bothers me the Library has to leave the lights on all night........Stop the $$$$$ ideas!.Just maintain the Building so in 20 years you don't tear down the building for another one, like the last time!!!!! Mike Lennox

Tired of OP tax waste from Oak Park  

Posted: November 27th, 2012 8:14 PM

Take a look at your tax bill and look at the% that already goes to the library. Do they really need more? If this disturbs you, let the board know... they are elected officials...http://oppl.org/about/library-information/get-touch/meet-board


Posted: November 27th, 2012 7:58 PM

Gotta match the waste of money to redo the park with a new lobby. I wish they'd spend the $300,000 on dvds that aren't scratched & more comfortable furniture.

MH from Oak Oark  

Posted: November 27th, 2012 6:58 PM

i am so disappointed with the Village of Oak Park. Quit spending money on unnecessary projects. If I could make some decent money on my condo, i would put it on the market tomorrow.

MC from Oak Park  

Posted: November 27th, 2012 5:11 PM

Really?? I use the library often and find it perfectly "user friendly" and welcoming. Oak Park's insatiable hunger for the biggest, newest, shiniest, fanciest is killing taxpayers and the diversity we seek. Waste of money!! Say "no" library board.

Michael Belker  

Posted: November 27th, 2012 5:00 PM

Let's not read the plan, just automaticallly mock the people hanging out by the library.Easier (and cheaper) to mock than help. But we cant spend it on mental health, jobs, etc. Just mock them and hope they go away. Feels good, huh, Bookman?

T.J. from OP  

Posted: November 27th, 2012 4:43 PM

That's one expensive homeless shelter!

Joe Bookman  

Posted: November 27th, 2012 4:04 PM

Au contraire, TP, we are getting a $300K lounge for the homeless. Yet another entity that has helped itself to so many of our tax dollars it has to invent new ways to spend them. And we do not need a fulltime Walmart-style greeter.

j.oak park  

Posted: November 27th, 2012 4:00 PM

please don't spend the money, oak park library board. the lobby is fine the way it is...even when the economy has a full and robust rebound, you won't need to spend the money

True Progressive from Oak Park  

Posted: November 27th, 2012 3:47 PM

Unnecessary use of funds. Use the $300000 to feed the poor instead.

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