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Open for business — White Oak Library District complete

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Updated: October 24, 2013 6:26AM



While their wives perused the book collections, two husbands waited in comfy new chairs and reminisced about their days at Plainfield High School. Homeschoolers toted away baskets filled with books; several adults were stationed at the new computers, while kids couldn’t resist checking out the brightly colored chairs in the new teen room.

The new Crest Hill branch of the White Oak Public Library District appears to be many things to many people, but to everyone it is brand new.

The single-story prairie-style library opened Wednesday in its new location, 20670 Len Kubinski Drive, or more familiarly, just north of Menards on Weber Road.

When the Lockport library branch reopens Monday it will be the culmination of a six-year planning, designing and construction project that expanded all three facilities within the White Oak Library District. The Romeoville building was purchased from the Fountaindale Public Library, renovated and expanded first, opening in June 2012. All of this was made possible by a successful $23 million referendum campaign in 2010.

“It’s exciting to say the least. With new space, we have room to grow,” library director Scott Pointon said. “Each building is a point of pride for a different reason.”

For the past two weeks, the staff has been in the moving business with Professional Library Lift Movers — moving 65,000 items from the old 7,600-square-foot Crest Hill branch at 1298 Theodore to its new 23,000-square foot facility.

The Lockport branch was gutted, renovated and expanded from 16,000 to 20,000-square feet. Most of its collection — 70,000 of its 85,000 items — were in storage for the past 18 months, while the library operated out of a small space at the nearby Gaylord Building.

Now, both have brightly colored rooms for kids, quiet reading rooms, study rooms, more computers, self check-out machines and a nook for Friends of the Library book sales.

Crest Hill branch manager Amy Byrne-Henderson said her favorite feature of the new library is “space.”

“It showcases our collection better. We operated for many years with very limited space. We will be able to have really awesome programs for kids and adults,” she said. “We think the Crest Hill branch will go from having the lowest circulation in the district to being on par with Lockport and Romeoville. People can just come and be here.”

And that’s exactly what people did on opening day, Sept. 18.

Theresa Wilson, working at one of the new computers, said she “couldn’t wait” for opening day. She lived next door to the former Crest Hill library location and will “miss the convenience,” she said. “But this one is nicer, and it’s not that far.”

She’s right. The new branch is only two miles north of the old site, which the library district hopes to sell.

John Mittelbrun, of Joliet, a regular at the Joliet Public Library’s Black Road branch, wanted to check out the new library in town.

“It’s a great location. I like the scenery and the variety of books,” said the history buff, as he sat reading about Iwo Jima at one of many tables along a wall of windows. He plans to alternate his library visits between the two facilities.

Another patron of the Black Road branch, Susan Rodriguez, of Joliet, said Crest Hill will be her “library of choice.”

“They have a really nice selection. I like the layout and there’s plenty of parking,” she said.

The newly renovated Lockport library branch also has a completely new layout and for the first time elevators.

“I don’t think people will recognize it,” branch manager Pat Jarog said. “We tried to give the public as much space as possible.”

The layout was “flip-flopped,” she said. The children’s department — with a dedicated “story hour” room — is now on the lower level while the adult section is upstairs, with quiet reading areas.

All the “noisy” functions will be on the first floor — the children’s section, the program area, the circulation desk and the front door, Pointon said.

Instead of one computer station for all patrons, there are separate ones for children and adults.

And even though she was locked out of her Crest Hill office on the first day, teen librarian Sarah Stumpf was no less excited about the new teen rooms at the libraries, with their comfy “blob” chairs. Teen volunteers were involved in selecting colors and moving into the rooms in Lockport and Crest Hill.

“They know this is their space. It’s a safe, well lit place to hang out, even if they don’t check out books,” she said. “They will read more because they are surrounded by books.”



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