Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Built on Bequests

Did you know that the Plainfield Public Library’s first 2 buildings were built without any tax dollars?
It’s true! In about 1919, George and Marietta McClester left $20,000 to the Village of Plainfield to establish and build a tax-supported library. In 1925, Ebanezer and Celeste Nimmons left $25,000 to the library board “to build, purchase a site, equip, maintain, repair, rebuild, refurnish or enlarge” the library.

Our first library building opened in April 1926, on Lockport St, near the corner of Illinois St, where the Heritage Professional Center now stands. It was a 25x30 room with a “separate toilet building.” Our name was originally the McClester-Nimmons Village of Plainfield Free Public Library, in honor of the two couples whose bequests started it all.

When the library outgrew that space in 1940, they built the 2,736 sq ft new library, using the remaining funds from the McLester and Nimmons bequests, at the current site on Illinois St. If you look at the double window behind the magnolia tree on the front of the building (southwest corner), you can still see the inscription that was once over the Library’s front doors.

In 1954, Fannie Stratton left her farm to the Library, which operated it for 34 years as an additional revenue stream. Some of that revenue was used to help purchase additional property along Illinois St for future expansion. In the late 1980s, the Library Board of Trustees sold the farm for $1.5 million.

In 1991, the current building opened. It was built with $1.9 million in bonds, supplemented by the bulk of the proceeds from selling the Stratton farm and a small state grant, for an initial cost of $2.8 million but with 2/3 of the lower level remaining unfinished. In 1996, the lower level was completed using the remaining farm funds, for a total cost of the building coming in at $3.5 million for 27,160 sq ft.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Question of the Day: Why does the Library offer programs and classes?

The full questions: Why does the Library offer programs and classes? If the Library stops offering programs, wouldn’t that pay for a new building?

The Library’s Strategic Plan Vision states:

“The Plainfield Public Library District provides excellent library services to satisfy the educational, informational, entertainment and inspirational needs of community residents throughout their lives. The Library is a community center, where residents connect with resources, with each other and with their community identity. The Library leverages technology and human capital to give residents access to services and resources not only at the Library's physical location but also throughout the community in partnership with other organizations and via virtual services. The Library is a vibrant and visible presence in the community, making residents aware of 21st century library services and our Library's unique character.”

Library programs and classes fill the community’s need for informal education opportunities. As public libraries evolve, the traditional educational and informational roles are increasingly incorporating entertainment and inspiration. Just like the Library’s collection reflects a wide variety of information and interests, the programs and classes offered by the Library reflect the diverse community we serve. Most programs are directly in response to requests from the community, such as travel, gardening and cooking.

Annually, the Library spends about 2% of its budget on programming, $65,659 last year. Cutting all programs and classes (everything from storytime to computer classes) would not cover the annual payment on a 20 year loan to address the repairs and system replacements identified as necessary to keep the current building functional for the next 20 years by the 2012 Building Evaluation. And that report only addresses the building and its systems – nothing cosmetic like carpet replacement or address and space issues.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

One Hour in the Library

Based on annual library use, every hour the Library is open:

  • 191 items are checked out. That’s one every 19 seconds.
  • 20 people attend a Library program – though many programs are presented at other locations, throughout the community, such as daycares, schools and local businesses.
  • 10 people use a PC. The average session is 43 minutes of use.
  • 17 people ask a reference question. Questions like “where’s the restroom?” don’t count.

Annually, residents check out more than 600,000 items, nearly 65,000 attend a library program or class, over 32,000 use a computer in the library and more than 57,000 questions are asked and answered.