Building Project

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The existing Bloomington Public Library building was built in 1976 and renovated in 2006. Since the 2006 renovation, the community usage and demand have outgrown the facility.

Full timeline available here

Farnsworth Group completed the following preliminary services:


Why do you need a larger library building? Hasn't your circulation decreased over recent years?

The existing Library was built in 1976, designed for a population of 41,000. In 2006, the Library increased our space by 25%. Our population has increased by 87% though!

The 2006 addition helped alleviate some pressure but did not fully meet the space and community needs. Since then, we have only continued to grow and strengthen our position as a place that provides our diverse community with a helpful and welcoming place that offers equal access to the world of ideas and information and supports lifelong learning.

We want to meet the demands of the community, being a place to gather, to learn, to grow, and to explore. We have the staff talents and enthusiasm to do this BUT we have to fight against the challenge of:

What will the proposed solutions cost?

A renovation/expansion would be approximately $28.5 million.

Why don't you share a building with Normal Public Library?

If we were to consider a shared library, the most feasible way to do this would be to dissolve the two municipal Libraries and form one District Library (authorized under 75 ILCS 16). This would be an independent taxing body (i.e. no longer under the umbrella of the City and/or Town), see below for a more detailed information about the differences.

The two Libraries already work together to reduce redundancies in many ways. This includes accepting each other's cardholders as their own, sending thousands of materials to each other (interlibrary loan) each year (and considering each other's collections in their purchasing decisions), collaborating on programs, and partnering with Unit 5 (and other local Libraries) to provide each student with a public library card.

With these partnerships in mind, a shared building may still offer some additional cost savings, there would also be some major cost increases. For example, we would need to hire additional staff to complete human resource and financial tasks, as it would no longer receive support from the City/Town staff. We would also have to purchase additional software, such as timekeeping and financial management software, as we would no longer be eligible to utilize the City/Town systems.

We would also move from serving 76,610 people and 52,343 people respectively to serving a total of 128,953. This would require a much bigger building, parking area, and overall site than either of library is currently considering and/or multiple branches. For example, Peoria (population 115,828) has five branches and a bookmobile.

What is the difference between a District Library and a Municipal Library?

  • District libraries are wholly independent units of local government; local libraries are not.
  • Appropriation for a district library is made solely on its own; local library appropriation is made through the corporate authority's appropriation.
  • The levy for district libraries is enacted by the district; local libraries' levy is included with the corporate authority's levy.
  • District libraries may issue tax anticipation warrants; local libraries cannot unless issued by the corporate authority.
  • District libraries issue their own bonds; local libraries can only issue bonds with permission of corporate authority.
  • District libraries have no specific statutory debt limit; local libraries may have a debt limit depending on the type of corporate authority.
  • District libraries enter into independent collective bargaining agreements; local libraries may be required to participate in the bargaining agreement of its corporate authority.
  • District libraries may annex additional territory through referendum, consent of property owner, or other means; local libraries cannot exceed the boundaries of their corporate authority.

Why don't you create a satellite library and/or a branch?

The Bloomington Comprehensive Plan says "those which serve the entire community, such as the Bloomington Public Library, should be located in the City core, preferably in the Downtown district. This area of Bloomington is accessible, and the concentration of facilities intended for all community members increases their ease of use." Considering this direction, feedback from community focus groups, and the increased costs of two locations (staff, maintenance, duplication of services, etc.), the Bloomington Public Library Board believes that the most strategic approach to community-wide service is a single, downtown location.

Why don't you move into Macy's (or another existing vacant building)?

While not impossible, the Library would have to complete extensive renovations to make Macy's (or another existing vacant building) work as a library. Some things that would have to be considered when exploring the possibility of using an existing vacant building are:

  • To sustain the heavy weight of books and other materials, libraries require more load bearing capabilities than what most existing buildings provide, this may lead to expensive and less than ideal retro-fitting.
  • In an effort to increase safety and security, libraries contain relatively few columns or load bearing walls, this may not be possible in an existing building and could lead to increased staff costs or security camera costs.
  • Bloomington Public Library has almost 1,000 visitors per day; therefore, carpet, walls, and other finishes must be long lasting and durable, most likely all of which would need to be replaced in an existing building.
  • Libraries require heavier concentrations of data connections, power outlets, and telephone collections than what most existing buildings provide, this may lead to expensive and less than ideal retro-fitting.
  • Libraries require lighting levels that allow books to be seen on the lowest shelf and do not contribute to glare or reflections on computer screens, many existing buildings would not provide this level of lighting, this may lead to expensive and less than ideal retro-fitting.

Why don't you move closer to the Downtown Core?

While there has been a general consensus by both the City Council and the Library Board that we should utilize our existing site (or on City-owned property adjacent to our existing site), we would be open to exploring other options. Some things that would have to be considered when exploring those possibilities are:

  • The cost of property acquisition and potential demolition/renovation costs if an existing building.
  • The site would need to be able to accommodate ample parking and/or safe access to ample existing parking.
  • The site would need to be able to accommodate an approximately 100,000 square foot building, preferably three stories or less. More floors, require more staff.

Why don't you just add more bookmobile stops?

The bookmobile schedule is already on a three-week rotation for stops and currently doesn't have any room to have more to the schedule without reducing service to existing stops. Also, the bookmobile is intended to be a supplement to the full services of the Library rather than a substitute.