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Feature Story - October 2006

Champaign Public Library

Central Illinois Facility Turns a New Page

by Brian R. Hook

A $30 million library under construction in Champaign, Ill., is closing the book on an old building and opening a new chapter with a 122,600-sq.-ft. complex that plans to continue growing its collection of 250,000 items.


"It seems like any time of day that I look out at the parking garage there are people observing the construction," said Marsha Grove, library director at the Champaign Public Library in downtown Champaign.

Plans have been under way for years. The library started buying all the property on the block where it is located several years ago. The library board purchased the last of the properties in 2005.

"The library now owns this whole block we're on," Grove said. "It works out perfectly. We don't have to move and tear down this building and lease another."

The current library remains open during construction with a temporary entrance and parking lot. Construction on a new parking lot started in September 2005. Excavation for the new library building started in December.

The new building is being constructed where the old parking lot was located.

A new lot south of the current library was built for use during construction.

This parking lot will eventually be part of a new lot for the new library.

The new library is expected to open in fall 2007. The final steps will be to remove the old library and complete the new parking lot and landscaping by the summer of 2008.

Funding a Library

Most of the money for the project comes from the sale of municipal bonds.

The Champaign City Council voted to sell the bonds and then increased the city sales tax by 0.25 percent Jan. 1, 2005. The council also increased the telecommunications tax by 2.5 percent. The sales tax adds 25 cents to the cost of a $100 purchase. The phone tax adds about a $1 a month to phone service.

The library is also working to raise $3 million in private funding for the project.

It has raised $2.5 million so far. "We hope to raise the rest of it by the end of the year," Grove said. "I don't think there are many public libraries that are able raise that sort of money for a building."

The new library will be three times the size of the current building. It will have a full basement, two full floors and a partial third floor for office space. The current building has only a partial basement, one full floor and a second partial floor.

The additional space is needed because the library is growing, Grove said.

The current library's collection includes books and audio-visual items.

"Our material budget is growing," Grove said. "We would really like to expand the collection as we move into the library. There is room for 60 percent growth in the collection in the new building."

The total number of items borrowed in 2000 was a little over 1 million. Last fiscal year, circulation was over 1.5 million, up 67 percent in nine years, according to the library. The number of visits last year totaled 628,230, an average of 9.2 visits per capita in Champaign.

The current building has 1,600 people come through it a day, Grove said. The extra space in the new library will help cut down on some of the noise experienced by current library patrons. "It's loud just because there are so many people in a small place," Grove said. "I think the main thing for the new building is that there are many more space options for people."


With such a large square building it is hard to reduce noise, said Tiffany Nash, project architect with Chicago-based Ross Barney + Jankowski Inc., the designer.

"I think the largest concern with noise was separating children from adults," Nash added. "We did that by separating them by floor." The children are on the first floor and the adults on the second.
Acoustical ceiling tile was also used, as was carpeting throughout the building.

"There are separate group study rooms if people want to be in a quieter area, and there are separate conference rooms," Nash said.

The new library will also have a separate computer room. The number of computers will total 76 throughout the library compared with 20 computers in the current library. The new library will also have a coffee shop and an outdoor area for people to go outside on nice days.

Other design elements include plenty of natural light and light sensors to turn on artificial lights, only when needed, reducing the cost of lighting and air conditioning. Energy-efficient glass, sun shading and a high-efficiency HVAC system will also help reduce energy costs

Arranging a Library

The biggest struggle for the architectural team was site configuration.

"We had to come up with an option for them where we could build the entire building while they stayed in their existing building," Nash said. "The existing building is in the middle of the block."

It took at least a year to come up with a design, Nash said. "We worked for a long time with a four-story scheme on the south side, and we decided half way into it that it would be better to put it on the north side" to allow for more green space, she added.

"Because we ended up with such a large floor plate, it was difficult to get a lot of daylight anywhere except for the perimeter of the building."

But skylights will be located in the main reading room on the second floor to allow natural light in. There will also be a large skylight over the stairwell that will drop light down to the first floor.

"We tried to design a building that looks like it was done today, but using materials that have been used in Champaign for many years," Nash said. "We used mostly brick and limestone on the building, and on the front, we tried to give it a civic presence."

The main portion of the new library will be brick and glass. The wing of the conference center will be limestone. The structural support throughout the building is concrete.

"It's all concrete until you get to the roof," said Patrick Dorsey, president of PKD Inc., the Champaign-based firm that is working as construction manager on the project. "We've got poured concrete columns that will pick up the roof structure. Then the roof structure will be steel." In August, the project was
about two months behind.

"We are in the most difficult part of the project right now, which is building the superstructure," Dorsey said. "This is formed-in-place concrete, therefore it is slower than a structural-steel system to build."

The chiller sits on grade outside the building, and the air-handling units are in the basement and on the partial third floor. The full basement will provide plenty of room for mechanical systems and help reduce noise.

The most difficult part of the construction project so far was digging the basement, Dorsey said.

"When you dig a full basement, you start to eat up a whole bunch of adjacent ground and you had limited ground to start with," he said.

But he added that being able to access the site from three different sides has helped.

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