Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Question of the Day: Why can't the Library use an existing building(s) for its expansion?

There are three main reasons why an existing building was not selected for the library's expansion at this time.

#1 Libraries cannot use just any building due to the live-load capacity of the structure. Book stacks are HEAVY. They require 150lbs per square foot live load capacity. Typical construction is 70-90lbs. Reinforcing a structure to accommodate that live load generally costs more than new construction. Grocery stores are one of the few types of construction that would be similar in live load capacity needed.

#2 The size of the buildings available is an issue. Many of the building suggested when this question is asked, the old Police Station and the former Applebee's restaurant for example, are not large enough to meet the community's need for a library location. The proposed branch is 30,000 sq ft - about 6 times the size of the former Applebee's building. If smaller buildings are used, multiple branches will be necessary to meet the community's need. The biggest expense in operating a library is staff. The more locations you have, the more staff you need and therefore higher operating costs. The two facility approach was selected to balance space needs and operating cost.

#3 The location of the existing building must meet the needs of the community. Putting a second library within a mile or two of the existing building when the Library District stretches from north of Boughton Road to south of Caton Farm Road, west to Arbeiter Road and east to Kings Road/Gaylord Road. Most of the buildings available are simply too close to the downtown library.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Question of the Day: Why build the "Taj Mahal"?

The proposed downtown library addition is not an extravagant building. Rather, it is the maximum size possible for the building's site while maintaining adequate parking on site. When researching a design concept, the architects gathered a "kit of parts" by analyzing the common elements among the buildings in the downtown. These included cornice work, recessed doorways with ornate trim, Ashler-pattern stone work, ornate brickwork, and palladian windows.

Each of these elements was included in the design of the downtown library. While the 1941 library building was the only Federalist-style building in the downtown, its character was also retained in the exterior concept selected.

The Site Feasibility Committee's review of the downtown site shows that the 70,000 square foot library proposed for the downtown in his plan cannot be expanded to meet the needs of the community in the future. By including an additional 30,000 sq ft branch library on the north side of the district, both today's need and the need for the next 12-15 years will be met.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Question of the Day: Why place this on the ballot now?

The Library's Board of Trustees really struggled with whether or not is was appropriate to place this referendum on the April 7, 2009 ballot.

They polled the community 3 times: July 2008, December 2008, and January 2009. Each poll of registered voters in the district showed over 60% support for placing this referendum on the April 2009 ballot. The December poll focused on likely voters and showed the highest level of support at 68%.

The comments from Library Trustees when they passed the ordinance to place this on the ballot had one common theme: Let the residents decide. The Library Board of Trustees, along with Library staff and representatives from other government entities and community groups, spend 2 1/2 years creating this plan. They believe it is a solid plan that balances community needs while being cost-conscious.

In the end, it is not the Library Trustees' decision. It is not the staff's decision. It is YOUR decision. It is up to you, the voters.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Question of the Day: Why does the Library need a 300-seat auditorium?

The 300-seat auditorium in the downtown facility fulfills a need articulated not only to the Library, but also the Park District and Village, in surveys and planning focus groups. Each entity independently heard that our community needs cultural programming and events to be available within Plainfield. Community groups need a larger venue for events like dance recitals, musical recitals, community theater, musical performances, author events, movie events, etc. The mutual need for auditorium space was actually the catalyst for the Library and Park District's exploration of a joint use facility. The auditorium remains a priority to facilitate those intergovernmental partnerships and support the community need for cultural programs and events by providing presentation space.

For example: the Candidates Night held at Village Hall on 3/19 was standing room only. This is precisely the type of community event that would be supported by the Library's auditorium. Programs already in place like Teen Readers Theater group, musical programs and larger children's programs would be able to accommodate triple the number of attendees in an auditorium than in the Large Meeting Room. The Park District already offers dance classes and need a recital space.

A frequent follow up to this question is about the high school auditorium. The auditoriums in each of the high schools are too heavily used by the schools (each serves all of its "feeder" schools) to allow for community use.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Question of the Day: Where do I vote?

Visit the Will County Clerk's website to look up your polling place.

You can also find early and absentee voting information on this page.

Early voting began March 16 and is available through April 2.

In-person absentee voting is available April 3 through April 6.

Please note that for early voting you must live in the jurisdiction of the early voting location. For example, if you live in unincorporated Plainfield Township, you cannot vote early at Village Hall in the Village of Plainfield. You need to go to Plainfield Township office or the Will County Clerk's office.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Question of the Day: Can the Library Board scale the project back? Can't you wait?

The short answer: they already did both.

The long answer: Generally, libraries use a 20-year planning horizon, as set forth in Serving Our Public: Standards for Illinois Libraries. Most building bonds are 20 year duration and that's about how often libraries propose referenda to their constituency. Despite outstripping all population projections for the Library District's service area by 2003, the Library's Board of Trustees chose to wait while the school and fire districts ran referenda to ensure they could keep up with the demand for service. They examined the existing building and made renovations in 2004 within it to get by for several more years.

From the beginning of the expansion planning process in 2006, the Library Board targeted 2010, the year the 1990 building bonds are paid off and the Library District is contracted to purchase a piece of property owned by the Village of Plainfield adjacent to the downtown Library. One of the first activities of the planning process was development of a Space Needs Analysis, based on population projections and Illinois library standards.

When the Space Needs Analysis showed a need of 135,000 square feet of library space to serve a population of over 124,000 by 2030, the Library Board considered both the potential impact to the taxpayers and the fulfillment of the need for library service. They chose to scale back the project to 100,000 square feet of library space that would serve a population of up to 95,000. Anticipating 2 years from groundbreaking to opening day, a significant wait is included in this timeline even if the referendum passes in April.

The Library Board waited from 2003, when the Library was only 35% too small, until 2009, when the building is now 60% too small according to Illinois library standards and local demand for service. The Library Board scaled back from the 20-year planning standard and 135,000 square feet of space to a 12-15 year planning horizon and 100,000 square feet of space.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Question of the Day: What does the other 44% pay?

This question was fairly long and complex:
"In the Special Edition newsletter, it says that the Village of Plainfield comprises56% of the Library District. In the referendum cost chart, the cost for the average homeowner in the Village of Plainfield is listed. What is the cost to the other 44% of the Library District?"

The proposed $0.3301 tax rate per $100 of valuation is the same for all residents in the Library District. Even those in the ever-confusing double tax, tax code 612 area would pay this rate, though it look a bit different their tax bills. The average home in the Village of Plainfield is used purely as an example, since that is majority of the Library District. Besides, including the average home value for Village of Bolingbrook, Village of Romeoville, unincorporated Wheatland Township and unincorporated Plainfield Township, made the chart too big to fit on the page with the rest of the information :-)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Question of the Day: With the economic situation today, why is this a good time to build?

Earlier this week, our friends at the Glenview Library demonstrated why now is a good time to build a library: the construction bids for their new library building came in nearly $1 million UNDER estimated cost! The competition for the job was fierce, netting overall cost savings on the project.

Low interest rates curently available reduce the project cost.

Fewer library construction projects being undertaken statewide reduces competition for Plainfield Public Library District on state construction grant funds.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Question of the Day: I live in Cumberland subdivision in the City of Joliet. Why is Plainfield Library on my tax bill?

There are two different situations that have both City of Joliet Library and Plainfield Public Library District appearing on your tax bill. You can determine which situation applies to you by looking at the tax code that appears on your tax bill or voter's registration card.

If you are in Tax Code 611 or 618, your property was in the Plainfield Library District when the bonds were passed on the existing building, but your property has since de-annexed from the Library District. Residents of 611 & 618 pay about $10 per year to the Plainfield Library District, only the bond portion of the District’s tax rate. That bond will be paid off in 2010 and going off 611 & 618 tax bills. Residents of 611 & 618 are not considered residents of the Plainfield Library District and cannot vote on the upcoming ballot measure. They are residents of the City of Joliet and must get their library card from the Joliet Public Library. This includes the east half of Mayfair, Brookside, Cumberland, Lakewood on Caton, plus about 12 homes in Aspen Falls and 3 homes in McKenna Woods.

If you are in Tax Code 612, your property is in both the City of Joliet Library and Plainfield Public Library District, due to a court decision back in the 1980’s. Residents of 612 are entitled to library cards and full privileges from both libraries, and will be able to vote on the upcoming ballot measure. Unfortunately, the library director that preceded me refused to give library cards to Tax Code 612 patrons for many years, a policy that was an egregious wrong to those residents. Shortly after my arrival at the Plainfield Library, we began issuing cards to those residents and worked with the City of Joliet to find a resolution to the problem. Part of that resolution is allowing these residents to hold library cards from both libraries. Each year your tax rate total, between the two lines shown on your tax bill, is equivalent to whichever tax rate is higher, Plainfield's or Joliet's. If Joliet's is higher, the "Plainfield Library Special" line on your tax bill will be zeroed out. If Plainfield's is higher, you see the Joliet rate and a special rate that is the difference between the Joliet rate and the total rate for Plainfield. This includes the west half of Mayfair and Aspen Falls, except those dozen that are 611.

These groups (612, 611, and 618) are all right next door to one another, so you can have one neighbor in 612 and the person across the street in 611. Frustrating and confusing to many, I know but our district's irregular boundaries were logical once upon a time (when it was all farm fields...).

Library's Online Collection Astonishes Crowd

At yesterday's Plainfield Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon and business meeting, Head of Reference and Reader Services Michelle Roubal presented "Strictly Business: Tools You Can Use from the Plainfield Public Library". Many of the attendees were astonished at the breadth and depth of the Library's online offerings. These tools go far beyond what is available free of charge on the Internet. These online tools aren't just for local businesses - they're available to every library cardholder.

Some examples of tools available, using your library card:

MorningStar Investment Research Center, including the Portfolio X-Ray tool you may have seen advertised during financial programs on TV. (Comment from a certified financial planner at the presentation: "That's what I use!")

Records Information System's Public Records database, including felony convictions, DUI arrests, foreclosures, bankruptcies and more. (Comment from a home-based business owner: "I can do my own mini-background check for free!")

Reference USA lists information for millions of businesses and households that can help you research companies or identify leads for direct marketing. (Comment from a small business owner: "I can learn to do that myself? I'm paying someone a lot for that!")

Learning Express Library includes online, self-directed courses in computer skills on software from Adobe Acrobat to Word. Each course is offered for a variety of versions (1997-2007!) from fundamentals to expert level. (Comment from a local banker: "My staff can do that from their desks at their own pace!")

Just look for "Online Resources" on the library's web page. Don't have a computer or Internet access? The Library's got that for you! Need help learning how to use these tools? Call the Library to "Book-a-Librarian" for a one hour session with one of our information professionals!

PS - Thanks, Bill, for the article idea! :-)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Question of the Day: I'm confused. Which of the buildings pictured are you going to build?

We've heard from several people that they are confused about the architectural renderings of the proposed downtown library. They are all different views of the same building.

This is the site plan, showing how the parking will be expanded and the footprint of the new building. Look for the dotted line that shows the outline of the existing building:

This is the new "main" entrance, facing Route 59. It is the right side of the building when you are viewing the site plan.

This view is the north side, facing the Illinois Street parking lot. It is the top side of the building when you are viewing the site plan.

This is the southwest corner of the building, showing the original 1941 library. It is the lower left corner of the building when viewing the site plan.

This is the proposed Illinois Street entrance on the west side of the building. On the site plan, it is the recessed opening on the upper left corner of the building.

If you are still thoroughly confused, stop by the Library during one of our information table times! We'd be happy to "walk" you around the proposed downtown library.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Question of the Day: Is the proposed tax rate in line with what other libraries in our area receive?

The short answer is yes, the proposed tax rate is in line with those of our neighboring districts that have passed referenda recently, like Oswego and Fountaindale Library Districts. Libraries in the suburban Chicago area spend an average of $7.34 per month per resident for service. Last year, the Plainfield Public Library District spent $4.23 per month per resident, Fountaindale spent $6.72 prior to the full increase from their recent referendum.

The long version:
Comparing tax rates can be tricky. Different types of libraries are funded differently. For example, Joliet and Naperville are units of city government. In most cases, city libraries receive utilities at no cost through the city's franchise agreements with the utility companies. Cities have access to other types of funds and bonding authority not available to library districts. Also, certain costs like audits, pension fund contributions, and liability insurance may be paid by through the City's tax rate and fees or may be included in the library portion of the tax rate. Joliet Public Library's Black Road Branch and recent remodeling of the downtown library were built without a bond on the library's tax rate. Tax rates for city libraries in Will County range from $0.7472 for the Park Forest Public Library to $0.1578 for the Joliet Public Library.

Library districts, like the Plainfield Public Library District, are independent taxing bodies, so their tax rates include costs for utilities, pension contributions, liability insurance, and the annual audit required by state law. Library district tax rates in Will County range from $0.4865 for the University Park Public Library District to $0.0983 for the Three Rivers Public Library District (Channahon/Minooka).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Question of the Day: I have a Joliet library card. Why can't my child attend programs at the Plainfield Library?

This very difficult decision was made by the Library's Board of Trustees several years ago. In an effort to be the best possible stewards of the taxpayers' money, the Board felt that restricting enrollment to residents was fair. High-demand children's programs are limited to Plainfield Public Library District residents only. Despite offering 23 storytimes a week, there are still wait lists. Some programs are restricted at the beginning of the registration period and open later if demand for that program is less than anticipated. Registration for other types of programs is not restricted.

As a Joliet resident, you are able to attend Joliet Public Library children's programs without restriction.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Question of the Day: Will the additional $15 per month be a permanent increase?

The ballot question is for a tax rate increase for the Library to a rate of $0.3301 for 2010. The Library will collect that rate for one year before the tax cap will take effect again and begin decreasing that rate. Exactly how much it will decrease is based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the value of all property in the district. The tax cap limits the total dollar amount that the Library can collect: total dollar amount collected last year plus CPI or 5% whichever is less. In recent years, the CPI averages around 2% while value of the property in the district has increased by a larger percentage each year. Over the last decade, the Library's tax rate decreases and average of 4% per year, more than 50% since the inception of the tax cap in the early 1990's.

Figuring a 4% reduction in rate the second year, the Library tax rate can be estimated to be $0.3169 in 2011, $0.3042 in 2012 and so on.

For more information on how this works check the Illinois Department of Revenue's web site and for more about your tax bill check out Will County's site.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Question of the Day: Will the north side branch be in or near Bolingbrook?

The Library is still in negotiations for property and has not announced an exact location. In general, the target area was east of Normantown Road, north of 135th, west of Essington Road, and south of 111th, with the main focus on the grid along and between 248th Street, 119th Street, Plainfield-Naperville Road, and 127th Street.

The longest drive-times to the downtown Plainfield location are from the far north areas of the District, including the Bolingbrook portion of the district, prompting the focus for property acquisition to be in that area.

The Library District serves the Village of Plainfield, the part of the Village of Bolingbrook that is in Wheatland Township, the part of the Village of Romeoville that is in Plainfield Township, unincorporated Wheatland Township, and unincorporated Plainfield Township. District boundaries stretch from north of Boughton Road on the far east side of the district to just west of Arbeiter Road in Kendall County between Route 126 and Caton Farm Road.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Question of the Day: Cafe in the Downtown Library?

A resident called today to ask this question:

"Why is there a cafe included in the downtown library?"

According to the schematic design as it stands, there is a cafe seating area in the lobby of the expanded downtown library, to allow for comfortable seating where food and beverages can be enjoyed. However, due to space constraints, it is likely to be a vending operation, like the Peotone or Kankakee Libraries have, rather than a coffee shop or cafe. While it would be a nice amenity to offer coffee and snacks in the library, space is at a premium.

Besides, we have Gourmet Junction, Cathy's Sweet Creations, and Bella Bistro all within an easy walk from our downtown location. Plenty of coffee and snacks available nearby!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Features of the Proposed Library Expansion

In addition to doubling the size of the collection, the proposed library expansion includes many features and upgrades to the existing library. Here are a few:

The 300-seat auditorium located in the downtown library would provide a venue for numerous programs and events, especially additional cultural events in partnership with other organizations in Plainfield. Everything from Park District dance recitals to music programs to author events could be accommodated here. The venue is modeled after the auditorium in the Skokie Public Library, where they offer everything from community theater to their Steinway Young Musicians concert series.

Computer classrooms to seat 15 are planned for each of the two locations. These would allow for expanded computer classes for all ages. Local businesses and organizations would be able to rent these classrooms for training etc. when library programs are not in session. When not otherwise being used, the classrooms would provide additional computers for public PCs during peak usage times.

Internet PCs for public use will more than double, for 40 to more than 80. This expansion will allow for more separation of children's PCs by age group.

Expanded storytime rooms in each location would allow the library to accommodate more than twice the number of children in storytimes. With space for 25 participants plus their caregivers in each, these rooms would also be available to house other programs for young children.

Multi-purpose rooms in each location would accommodate programs of up to 100, but be divisible for smaller meetings and programs. These rooms would be available for rental to local businesses and community organizations also.

A program room exclusively for teen programming in the downtown would allow for expanded programs like the Homework Help Center. This space would provide a safe and positive environment for teens to participate in a wide variety of activities.

The downtown library parking lot will expand the current Village lot on Route 59 and connect it to a reconfigured Illinois Street parking lot. The reconfiguration of the Illinois Street lot should make it much more user-friendly. The placement of the Library's main entrance facing Route 59 should move the majority of library patrons' cars to the expanded Route 59 side of the lot. The Route 59 lot is generally underutilized today.

After hours pick up lockers are planned for both libraries. Residents will be able to request materials on hold for them be placed in a locker. Library staff would provide the locker number and code, allowing for 24/7 pick up of materials.

Drive up book drops will be located at each library allowing or more convenient return of materials.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Tax Implications of the Referendum

Since the newsletter, with a front page article on the referendum, arrived in homes, the most frequently asked question I have received is: What will it cost me?

Here’s the answer:

Use this table and your most recent tax bill for the most accurate estimate.

Things to remember:

• Property taxes are paid in the following year – so Tax Year 2007 was paid in

• Equalized assessed valuation is about 1/3 of the actual value, minus the
homeowners exemption if it is your primary residence.

• The ballot question shows 0.1926 as the increase amount. The Library’s tax
rate will decrease 0.0120 in 2010 when the bonds on the existing building
are paid off. The net increase for this referendum will be 0.1806.

A special edition of the Library’s newsletter will be arriving in home in a week or two. This newsletter also contains a simple table for finding your estimated cost.

Questions? Just call!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hard Economic Times and Booming Library Use

The economy may not be booming - but Library use began booming with the population explosion and continues!

CNN.COM has joined CBS News, NBC News, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and many more in documenting the boom in library use during recessions. Between the population explosion in Plainfield that only recently ended, now the boom of use, Plainfield Library is a busy place. This morning, we have a full house: nearly full Internet PCs for adults, storytime kids all over, Homework Help Center, a movie, and a computer class scheduled for later in the day.

As mentioned in the article, Plainfield Library offers Internet Job Searching classes, resume writing, host the Will County Workforce Services Mobile Learning Center van and more. Unfortunately, the Library can only offer the classes to six people at a time - that's the capacity of the Computer Classroom. Also, the Homework Help Center and computer classes cannot run simultaneously because they use the same space.