On right/front, Melaina Maraldi, Children's Services Manager, On left/back, Marissa Walentschik, Children's Services Associate. | Provided

The River Forest Public Library is undergoing a bit of construction that is temporarily interrupting library operations to make for a better future experience. So please pardon the dust at the moment. 

The project to renovate the library’s sole branch, 735 Lathrop Ave., has been in the works for about two years, according to library director Emily Compton. But the work has only just begun in earnest. 

The work can be broken down into three parts, the first being the replacement of the library’s air handler, the device that regulates the circulation of air in heating and cooling systems, which had reached the end of its life after being in use for 30 years. The library’s new air handler, a roughly 400-square-foot piece of machinery, was craned in last Monday. It’ll be installed outside and enclosed with brick to match the rest of the library. Temporary heaters have been brought to the premises to keep people toasty while the new handler is set up.

Proper ventilation of temperate air may not pique everyone’s interest levels, but perhaps people will be more excited by the library’s new multi-purpose room and a bathroom. Both are happening as part of this renovation project.

To help pay for the renovations, the library received a $100,000 grant from the River Forest Public Library Foundation, as well as a $100,000 donation given by a library patron. The library’s capital reserve fund will cover the rest of the $574,000 project. Completion of the project is slated for late 2023 or early 2024. 

The small mechanical room, where the library’s old air handler was stored, in the children’s space is being converted into the new multi-purpose room, which can be used by staff and patrons alike for meetings, studying and programming. The conversion is a “rare” opportunity, according to Compton, because unutilized space is a hot commodity for the library, which is only about 14,400 square feet.

Internal construction work just began. It’s expected to take two months to bring the room up to code. Compton is looking forward to getting it out of the way, so the focus can be returned to the many opportunities having an extra room affords. 

“I’m really glad we’re getting past the mechanical parts,” she said. “And I’m excited to start planning for the fun stuff.”

That “fun stuff” includes new technology, new equipment, even new furniture colors to make the space welcoming, but the room will also satisfy a greater need. The library currently only has one meeting room, which limits the library’s ability to balance patron reservations of the room while scheduling programming. With two meeting rooms, the library will also be able to offer simultaneous programs, such as one for children and one for seniors that meet at the same time on the same days. 

People using the new multi-purpose room won’t have to travel far to use the restroom either as the library’s new bathroom will be conveniently situated in the children’s area, offering a closer option than the two lobby restrooms. This will surely be appreciated by the parents of kids just out of diapers.

“It’ll be really nice to have a bathroom in there,” Compton said of the children’s section.

Join the discussion on social media!