Germantown Hills Library looks to expand

Justin Glawe

A slide show of past projects, accompanied by posters of library interiors and exteriors, was part of a special public meeting Thursday night at the Germantown Fire Protection District station.

The public reception for the Illinois Prairie District Public Library proposal - a new building in Germantown Hills that would replace the current one - ranged from excited to skeptical to unorthodox.

Some residents inquired about housing a new library in the now-shuttered Jubilee Foods facility.

"Jubilee was our hub," one resident said. "Have we thought about putting it there?"

But most of the almost 60 people in attendance seemed more concerned with how the project would be funded.

Director of Civic Architecture Rick McCarthy said it's possible a state grant could be used to pay for 50 percent of the overall cost, about $2 million.

"The grant applications are due April 2 and you have to have enough of a design to have an accurate cost estimate," McCarthy said. "Nobody's committed to anything if the grant doesn't go through."

"They've prioritized the grants so the first libraries that get them are ones affected by fires or natural disasters," library Director Grant Fredericksen said to the crowd's laughter. One person jokingly said they should burn down the old library.

"The second category is large growth centers," Fredericksen said. "You only have to drive around a little bit to see how much this community has grown."

The grant may be more difficult to get than expected. Only one such grant was issued in fiscal year 2011.

In May, the Toulon Public Library received a $125,000 grant from Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, the state librarian, to go toward construction of a new building that would replace the 1915 Carnegie building it was using.

Still, McCarthy was optimistic about the possibility of a new library building in Germantown Hills.

"This can be more than a building on a site," McCarthy said. "It can be a beacon for the community."