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Library expansion plans hinge on Joliet Diocese review

A decision by the Joliet Catholic Diocese will play a key role in how expansion plans progress at the Villa Park Public Library.

The library is seeking rights to the St. Alexander Catholic Church-owned parking lot north of the library. In turn, St. Alexander’s would receive the nearest parking lot, which is south of the church.

Acquiring the church’s parking lot would create a “domino effect,” leading to further strategic plan progress, according to Sandra Hill, Villa Park library director.

Hill said that because the church’s parking lot lies within the Joliet Diocese’s jurisdiction, it reserves the right to review the property swap and wants to examine the library’s expansion plans.

Owning the church’s parking lot would allow the library to build a large conference room on the property.

The plan is for the library and church to still share the parking lots so Hill said there’s little concern of either party gaining or losing spaces because of the property swap.

“The hope is that we would continue to use their parking spaces and they would use ours,” said Hill, who added that the swap would help both the library and church better serve their patrons.

If the diocese approves the swap, the library hopes to add a larger conference room with a capacity for 90 to 100 people. The new space would require a building expansion and would better serve concerts, presentations and meetings, Hill said.

If the exchange is denied, the library plans to move on with its strategic plan by expanding from within. However, renovations without adding space presents its challenges, Hill said.

The library plans to provide the diocese with the expansion plans in the coming weeks.

“We would need a set of drawings before we can review and render any decisions,” said Edward Flavin, Joliet Diocese communications director.

The library is in the process of contracting with Nagles and Hartray Architecture. There will be an analysis of current facility systems, such as HVAC and electricity, to determine an estimated cost for the renovation project.

Reorganizing the the library’s customer service model is another key component of the strategic plan.

“The library is repositioning itself as a learning resource,” Hill said.

The library aims to use the Arlington Heights Memorial Library’s standing service station as a model. Staff would be placed in a more central location and encouraged to proactively move throughout the building to better assist patrons.

Once the diocese’s decision is made, the funding and grant writing process will begin.

Hill refutes the idea that libraries are facing extinction. She said a strategic plan shows the library is working to adapt to its changing role. Other changes will include a new-look website and tagline.

“I’ve been told that it’s a very aggressive [plan], “ Hill said. “We will be working hard to accomplish everything outlined.”

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