Starting in January, the Waukegan Public Library will undergo a major transformation of its main floor to accommodate the changing and growing needs of the community. Ensuring that the environment of the library is focused on learning and discovery, the redesign includes six new classrooms and collaborative study spaces, engaging and educational exhibits, upgrades in technology, better seating and lighting, and a large media wall.
In an effort to reflect the changing role of the library from information warehouse to educational institution, the new spaces will further define the library as a Learning Center for the community. It will include functional, dynamic, innovative, and engaging spaces that will help community members on their individual paths to success. The redesign is another step in moving the library’s new vision forward and increasing literacy rates by 25% by the year 2020.
For the last 30 years, the Waukegan Public Library has maintained literacy programs for adults and families with the help of partner organizations like the Literacy Volunteers of Lake County, Waukegan Public School District 60, and outside funding sources. However, for the last few years, current library classroom spaces and collection materials are no longer adequate or able to meet the demands of a growing population of native and non-native speakers in need of free resources and services.
“In the past, we had to have had to be very creative in finding learning spaces for groups. Our classrooms are full every night of the week and our classes have long lists of students waiting for an opening. With two new classrooms and four collaborative study spaces on the main floor, we will be able to serve more members of the community as they learn, grow and transform,” said Gale Graves, Education and Literacy Services Manager.
While the books won’t disappear, community members will notice a larger focus on teaching basic functional and cultural literacy, in essence, knowledge as fundamental as when to go to the doctor, how to read street signs, or even how to print a form from a website. “Libraries are not just about books, they are about reading, resources, and access to information,” said Richard Lee, Waukegan Public Library Executive Director. “At the library, we are committed to creating a community of readers from cradle to career. When our residents are successful, our city will be successful.”
The Waukegan Public Library continues to play a vital role in the lives of community members and it is hoped that the new main floor will reflect the increasing need for flexible, functional spaces that meet the needs of a changing population. The project is funded by state grants and general operating funds saved over the last few years. The library will be open normal hours during construction except for the week of January 10-18. The project is expected to be completed by June of 2015.