The Library Board and Library administration began working on the Library Capital Improvement Project in 2016. May 2017 marked the one-year anniversary of a new operational strategy for the Library, reflecting a more open and welcoming library created by loosening of lending rules and increasing invitations to come to the building for additional programming and community gatherings. The Library Board was interested both in learning the Lake Forest community’s opinion of this new operational strategy and better understanding how the Library building created challenges to its effectiveness.
In spring and summer of 2017, the Library partnered with Sarah Keister Armstrong & Associates to undertake a Community Needs Assessment. The Community Needs Assessment included an adult survey, a separate teen survey, and community focus groups. The survey was distributed online and in print; and all residents of Lake Forest were invited to participate. Over 95% of adults and 82% of teens completing the Library’s 2017 Community Needs Assessment Survey agreed or strongly agreed that the Library is relevant to the Lake Forest community. The survey respondents also identified the following takeaways:
- More classes and programs
- Updated and expanded technology offerings for all ages
- Adoption of new technologies such as RFID, self-check
- Increased west side presence
- Dedicated Teen Space
- Small quiet work rooms
- Medium sized meeting rooms
- Quiet corners for solitary work
- Café and gallery space
- Insufficient for all patrons, particularly for those with mobility issues
- Life and safety issues with the location of the parking
- Life and safety issues with Deerpath Road crossing
- Unenthusiastic regarding paid parking
ADA and access issues
- Exterior and interior building access
- Restrooms, location, and size
- Access to elevator
- Access to materials
- Exterior lighting
From an analysis of the Community Needs Assessment input, the following overarching goals emerged for the Library:
- Enhance the user experience
- Ensure accessibility for all Lake Forest residents
- Improve Library space to ensure accessibility and desired functionality
- Raise the visibility of the Library and its work in the Lake Forest community
In addition to identifying these goals, the community feedback recognized the Library as a valued asset that plays a vital role in the Lake Forest community, a community that identifies family, education, philanthropy, and tradition as its cornerstones. The Executive Summary of the Community Needs Assessment is at www.lakeforestlibrary.org/plan.
In September 2017, the Library Board adopted the 2017–2019 Strategic Plan in which the four goals are set out with corresponding objectives, directly responding to the themes that arose from the feedback received and conversations held during the Community Needs Assessment process. In identifying the objectives, the Library focused on fiscally responsible actions that were both aspirational and achievable. The Library also adopted a new mission statement as part of its strategic planning: Lake Forest Library: inspiring life-long learning, promoting the free and respectful exchange of ideas, and building community.
The Strategic Plan was extended to 2020 to accommodate the delay experienced in 2019 to the Library Capital Improvement Project. The Library plans to commence work on a new strategic plan in the late summer of 2020. The Strategic Plan is at www.lakeforestlibrary.org/plan.
Feasibility Study by HGA Architects and Engineers, Inc.
In 2017, unusual buckling on one of the historic 1931 Nicolai Remisoff mural panels that line the Library's rotunda triggered an inspection of the Library's dome. The initial estimates to repair the leaded-copper dome and restore the dome's masonry substructure were of such magnitude that the Library Board determined the most fiscally responsible course of action was to obtain a feasibility study to assess and document all the building's aging facilities infrastructure. The goal was to be proactive, identify and prioritize the building's needs, and develop a holistic improvement plan that would resolve the infrastructure issues and deliver on the community's expressed desires for new services, programs, and resources. In November 2017, the dome was wrapped as a triage action.
In November 2017, the Library Board issued an RFQ for Architectural Services to obtain the needed expertise and counsel to examine and assess the building, its historically significance components, and use as a library in view of the current and future needs of the Lake Forest community. Eleven firms submitted responses to the RFQ, six of which were interviewed by the Library Board. In March 2018, using identified criteria, the Library Board selected Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc. Architects and Engineers (HGA), based on their national library design work, integrated engineering teams, historical preservation work, prior dome projects, and other work in the Lake Forest community.
As part of its feasibility study, HGA:
- Conducted community and staff focus groups in April 2018
- Evaluated how library functions are conducted in the current building
- Assessed historic importance and preservation
- Assessed and assigned life expectancy to infrastructure (both systems and building)
- Assessed ADA compliance
- Assessed parking and site constrictions
- Offered possible building solutions that responded to the community survey wish list, needed library functions, as well as the building's infrastructure issues
- Included an option that costed out a new build
Delivered in September 2018, HGA's feasibility study (i) detailed the building's structural issues, including systems replacement and ADA compliance, and (ii) provided options on how to respond to emerging service demands, future needs of the Lake Forest community, and the building infrastructure issues. The report addressed restoration and maintenance of the building’s historic elements, parking and traffic modifications, ADA compliance, and most importantly, consideration of current and future library functions. It is anticipated that the Library would operate off-site during the construction period due to the significant infrastructure work.
Actions taken in response to HGA Feasability Study
In September 2018, the Library issued an RFP for capital campaign counsel to assist in developing the project, measuring potential for community support, designing a creative funding model based on community input, building community support, and developing a public/private funding strategy. The Library Board received and reviewed twelve submissions and conducted interviews with six firms. At the conclusion of the interview stage, the Library Board determined, based on identified criteria, The Hodge Group to be the best fit for the project and the Lake Forest community.
In fourth quarter 2018, the Library updated City administration on the work done to date on the Library Capital Improvement Project and was advised not to move forward with the retention of capital campaign counsel and to enter a triage period in which only life and safety issues in the building would be addressed.
Actions taken to address Building Issues
In December 2018, the dome was wrapped for a second time at a cost of $22,600. Prior to the re-wrapping, HGA completed a full investigation of the dome and its underlying limestone and brick substructure.
In January 2019, HGA provided a conceptual construction estimate of $743,983 for the dome and pedestal repair. The estimate was for the low end of the repairs and depending on the type of water-proofing system installed under the copper and the amount of needed stone repair, etc., the repair could be between $900,000 to $1,000,000. The estimate included a 15% design contingency and a 5% construction contingency. There were and still are unknowns—amount of stone to be repaired/replaced, what exactly is under the copper, is the substrate sound, how are the corner "scoops" framed?
In January 2019, the repairs to the Library’s elevator cylinder were completed after being inoperable for four months at a cost of $65,300. The delay was due to the need to have a custom cylinder built as a generic replacement cylinder would not accommodate the 1978 elevator. Additional costs for earlier inspections and investigations were approximately $5,400, for a total project cost of $70,700. Although operational, the elevator is not ADA compliant.
Additional life & safety issues were addressed during the triage period, among the more significant were covering the leaking glass roof of the Kasian Room, mold removal, and replacement of defective safety lighting.
Feasability study by The Hodge Group, capital campaign counsel
In June 2019, City administration and the Library Board determined that the best course of action was to move forward with the retention of capital campaign counsel.
In August 2019, The Hodge Group was retained by the Library Board to prepare a feasibility report on the Capital Improvement Project. From November to February 2020, The Hodge Group met with individuals, foundations, and members of city government. In March 2020, The Hodge Group reported to the Library Board their assessment that the Lake Forest Community would support a public-private capital improvement project. Keeping the Library in its current location as well as preserving the historical nature of the building were major themes heard during the information gathering stage.
In April 2020, the IRS issued section 501(c)(3) status to The Lake Forest Library Foundation, an Illinois non-profit corporation formed in December 2019 to support the philanthropic efforts of the Library. The creation of the corporation and application to the IRS for tax exempt status were completed in house by Library administration.
Program and Pre-design with HGA
From February through August 2020 (the program and pre-design phase), the Library Board and Library administration are working with HGA to complete a preliminary design supported by HGA's 2018 feasibility study and an independent library space needs assessment (building program) prepared by Penny Hummel Consulting, a library facilities consultant; and within the funding model created by The Hodge Group and approved by the Library Board in March 2020. The proposed concept plans advance the Library’s work while respecting the role of other important civic organizations in the community.
Concept plans created by HGA, supported by the Hummel Consulting Program Study, call for the following improvements and changes to be made at the Lake Forest Library:
- A building of approximately 39,945 square feet, inclusive of the 1931 Edwin Clark building
- Restoration and refurbishment of the historic 1931 Edwin Clark building, including restoration of the exterior historic center walkway and potential removal of east/west 1978 wings
- Addition of new north wing to provide for adult, teen, and children’s collections, programs, and services
- Renovation of the lower level to add meeting rooms to host greater numbers of patrons for popular programs and events, as well as host meetings and gatherings of outside community groups and businesses
- Addition of small study rooms for small group and entrepreneurial users
- Addition of a makerspace for artistic collaboration and technology resources
- Updating the building infrastructure to replace aging electrical, plumbing, elevator, and HVAC systems
- Updating the building to address ADA and access issues
- Creation of a new entrance on the east side of the Library building to coordinate with new ADA compliant parking
- Relocation of staff areas to provide for greater efficiency and better collaboration
- Expansion of both handicap and regular parking and safer pedestrian access to the Library building
Current concept plans adjusted the options presented in 2018 due to the changes in Phase 2 of the McKinley Road Project. The enlarged Phase 2 building in the McKinley Road Project, made possible when the project acquired additional property along McKinley Road from the Church of the Covenants, pushed back further east into the lot amending the parcel designated for potential library expansion on the earlier Master Plan. The revised concept plans call for an east side entrance to accommodate the need for an ADA compliant entrance as an entrance on the north side of the building is no longer a possibility.
A preservation advisory committee with members from the Historic Preservation Commission, Lake Forest Historic Preservation Foundation, and City administration is assisting the Library Board in determining the best design for the new addition during this program and pre-design phase.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Library Board and HGA's work in the summer of 2020 is the logical progression of the work started in 2017 and continuing to date. This work continues because significant resources have already been expended and it is important not to lose the value of the work done to date to deliver the much needed 21st century library to the Lake Forest community.
The Hodge Group remains committed to the viability of the project. With experience from the economic downturn in 2008, they advised working with HGA through August to bring the project to the end of its current stage and then reassess the fund-raising environment. Simultaneously the Library will continue to stay in contact with potential donors and seat the board of The Lake Forest Library Foundation. These actions will position the Library Capital Improvement Project to proceed as soon as the capital raising environment rights itself.
The Library Board's work with HGA and The Hodge Group is conducted at special or regular board meetings that are open to the public. See www.lakeforestlibrary.org/board.
At the October 19, 2020, City Council meeting, the Council will hear an introductory presentation from the Lake Forest Library. Library Board members, consultants, and staff will present an overview of the work completed to date in planning for the future of the Library. The City Council will hear about the vision for the Library going forward.
- What types of services and programs will be offered?
- Who will the Library serve?
- What facilities and amenities will be needed to meet future needs?
- What repairs, upgrades and restoration work is needed to preserve and protect the original Library building?
- What opportunities are there for collaboration and coordination with other entities in the community?
The Council will ask questions, challenge current assumptions and offer input to help guide the Library’s planning process.
Looking ahead, beyond the October 19th City Council meeting, any changes to the historic Library building will require review by the City’s Historic Preservation Commission at a public hearing. The City Council will discuss how and whether the City may be able to offer financial support for the Library taking into consideration the other capital needs throughout the community.