By SAMANTHA PIDDE
The Mount Carroll District Library moved a significant step closer to its planned $2.3 million facility upgrade with the State of Illinois committing more than $1.15 million last week to the project.
The library received official notification Monday, Aug. 10, from Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White of its eligibility to receive a $1,157,245 grant from the Illinois Public Library Construction Act Grant Program for the rehabilitation and expansion of the Mount Carroll library building.
"Just as Andrew Carnegie in 1907 required the community to raise $3,000 in order to secure Carnegie's $10,000 contribution to build the current library building,” said Library President Laurel Bergren, “the State of Illinois is challenging the Mount Carroll District Library to match the State's commitment by June 30, 2021."
In order to receive the $1.15 million grant, the library must raise approximately $680,000 through donations and other funding sources, Bergren said.
In 2014, the Mount Carroll District Library acknowledged its growing demand for library services and its physical limitations. That year, the public participated in a multiple-day workshop developing a strategy and potential designs addressing the historic library building's lack of accessibility, climate control and space.
"Since the design workshop, the library has applied yearly to the State of Illinois for funding while in the meantime raising about $460,000 specifically for the rehabilitation and expansion project," Bergren said. "We knew the project was out of the community's reach without State funding."
The proposed construction project will add 7,289 square feet of library space, consisting of a two-story addition to the rear (west) of the current building plus the utilization of the exposed basement.
Overseen by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, the historic integrity of the Carnegie building will be maintained, said Bergren, adding that plans will become available to the public in the next few weeks.
Librarian Pam Naples said the addition will allow the library's programs and services to be accessible to all members of the community. She said library staff have wanted to increase the number of programs for patrons of all ages, but have been unable to do so.
"Often we've had to restrict the number of those who can attend because of space or accommodations," said Naples, adding, "An expansion would mean we could offer more programs and a wider variety of programs to meet the needs and interests of our patrons."
Bergren said the library serves as a community center with patrons choosing to spend several hours a week reading, socializing, catching-up on the news, being entertained, and developing new hobbies and skills.
Having increased 25 percent over the past four years, almost 8,600 patrons visited the library during 2019. The library has regularly conducted programming and workshops off-site due too high numbers of attendees.