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Homer Township Public Library growing

By the numbers

Current Future

Private study room 0 6

Quiet reading room 0 1

Public computers 9 24

Family activity room 0 1

Public restrooms 2 5

Adult seating 30 92

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Updated: July 15, 2013 1:19PM



The Homer Township Public Library is beginning a new chapter in its 25-year-old life as it expands into an addition this summer.

The library is closed to patrons until early July, while workers are physically moving 80,000 books and items in this second phase of a multiphase project.

In what director Sheree Kozel-La Ha called “organized chaos,” crews from Pro Lift Movers of Tinley Park spent four days reshelving and reconfiguring the entire book collection.

Deep cardboard boxes were wheeled around to their new locations, while other workers installed shelves and security cameras.

Kozel-La Ha jokes about chewing a lot of gum to relieve the stress of this massive move, but she stays focused, knowing that her patrons will be thrilled with the results when every piece is in its place this fall.

The 11,600-square-foot addition will not only nearly double the size of the existing library at 14320 W. 151st St., but will offer many new amenities amidst bright colors, unusual lighting and energy efficient utilities — which are “atypical” for a library, she said.

“This is not your grandma’s library,” Kozel-La Ha said, meaning no disrespect. “Our role is expanding. We are trying to make this a destination point.”

In planning the addition, library officials looked at how it was being used by the community.

For a small library, Homer Township sees 600 people a day, checking out 750 items.

“That means we are very relevant to our community,” Kozel-LaHa said.

She knows her patrons want more than books. They come here to be social, to congregate with friends, to play games, do crafts, use computers and quietly read.

The addition means there will be more of the facilities the patrons now enjoy — more private study rooms, computers, books and seating.

There also will be a family activity room, community room, sun room, separate areas for youth and adults, and a quiet reading room with a fireplace.

Kozel-LaHa is pleased about all the windows and natural lighting, and an area along the front windows she called the “community corridor,” where people can congregate.

“People like to be near windows and this takes them away from the hubbub of the library and promotes togetherness, quiet study or whatever their needs are,” she said.

A new covered main entrance with a landscaped seating area and automatic doors for easy access, will create a “welcome feel,” the director said. “Our staff is known for its customer service. We wanted the outside of the building to welcome people as much as the staff does.”

The whole intent of this new layout is that it is all “public space,” she said, explaining the role of the library is changing to become more of a “social community center.”

“There is a lot going on here,” she said.

The multiphase, $4.5 million project began with the installation of a parking lot. Then came the construction of the addition. Crews are now moving the entire library into the new half to make way for the third and final phase — the renovation of the existing 14,000-square-foot space. When that is completed this fall, the library will move again, as the remodeled space becomes the youth department and the addition becomes the adult section.

The library expects to reopen in the new addition in July, and will have a grand opening celebration in the fall when the project is completed.

On Aug. 16, the community is invited to dedicate the quiet reading room — to be known as the Heroes Quiet Reading Room — to mark the birthday of U.S. Army PFC Michael Olivieri, son of the library’s youth services director Jody Olivieri, who was killed in Baghdad June 6, 2011, when militants attacked his base.

Kozel-La Ha said she hopes to honor other heroes and military personnel as well. Donations for this room are being accepted in Olivieri’s name at the library.

The library also is seeking donations and sponsorships for the family activity room, teen area and study rooms.

The project has been self-funded, the director said, with $1.5 million in grants and a $3 million bond issue that did not add to the library’s tax rate.

Operating on a “lean and mean” budget, much of the 25-year-old furniture and shelving will be re-used, she said.

Every last detail was part of a “well-thought out plan,” Kozel-La Ha said. “This has been a huge give-back to the community.”



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