Joliet library remodel nears completion as state check for

Joliet — A check for nearly $3.8 million came in the mail, stirring some excitement at the Joliet Public Library.

The money marked the first payment on a state grant that will cover most of the $10.5 million Project Burnham remodeling of the downtown branch, which is expected to be completed in September.

“We had expected the funds to be paid out over a few years,” library Executive Director Megan Millen said in a news release issued last week. “To hear that the money has been received and the city will be paid back early for the bonds is wonderful news.”

The $6.3 million state grant will go to the city of Joliet to pay off bonds issued for the project. The other $4.2 million is being paid from library reserve funds.

The check literally came in the mail, and staff was surprised to see it come early, library spokeswoman Mallory Hewlett said Tuesday.

The check for $3.78 million arrived on June 24. The remainder of the grant now is expected to come in the coming months when the project is done.

The library has remained open during the remodeling, and patrons have seen portions of the finished product as sections reopened.

“You can see that the youth services section upstairs looks completely different,” Hewlett said. “There are more things that kids can play with and engage with. There is more interactive learning.”

Some sections of the library have been relocated, including the local history section that is now in a larger setting on the first floor.

The library plans to have a grand reopening for the completed remodeling in late September.

Construction started in spring 2021 with plans for completion by fall 2022.

The project is in phase three, which focuses on the Digital Media Studio in the lower level and areas for adult patrons on the first floor.

The renovation was designed update space and improve access to library resources at the Ottawa Street Branch, which was built in 1903 and was designed by renowned Chicago architect Daniel Burnham.

Improvements feature:

• A discovery zone for children to encourage creative play and learning

• Individual and collaborative study spaces at the branch, which previously had no private study rooms

• Improved space for digital media and maker space

• Better access to technology and resources, including more power outlets

• Opening up the previously closed Chicago Street entrance.

Former state Sen. Pat McGuire obtained the state grant through the Rebuild Illinois Community Development program.

“We are grateful to Sen. McGuire, a longtime friend of the Joliet Public Library, for supporting our mission and thinking of us for this grant,” Millen said in the news release. “We are also thankful to the City Council, for voting to sell the bonds for us until the grant money came through.”