I have been asked by many residents during our new library building negotiations with the Park District why the Library Board does not consider another location for the library. The Library Board has prioritized staying at the current location for several reasons.
The land that the Helen Plum Memorial Library and Lilacia Park reside on together was a gift to the people of Lombard from Colonel Plum, who willed his land to be “for the purposes of a public park and a free public library.” Colonel Plum’s will states that he donates both his home in the memory of his wife, Helen for the library, and their garden for the park, “to be treated as a unit.” Preserving this unique relationship is important to the history of Lombard.
Preserving and protecting Lilacia Park has always been a priority in considering plans for building a new library at our current location. Proposed plans include a building that is in proportion to its surroundings, and in no way harms the lilacs. We have kept in the forefront concerns with sights, sound, shade and scale when considering concepts. Our goal has always been a well-designed building that lives in connection with the park, and enhances both the library and park experiences.
There are so many different opportunities to improve the connectivity between the library and the park. We have brought several viable and achievable options to the table as ideas, for discussion and dialogue. And we welcome more of these opportunities! These ideas aim to find ways to increase the aesthetic relationship between the library and the park, with attractive outdoor spaces that are filled with light and provide an additional way for everyone to experience the park.
When entering into this dialogue with the Park District, before deciding to go to referendum for a new building, we took in good faith their encouragement and support. We were energized to see that we shared the same objective of enhancing the interface between the Library and Lilacia Park. The Park District’s 2013 Master Plan (on their website) includes recommended initiatives to “improve library interface with park” and “improve library interaction/adjacency, creating more cohesion between the two sites.”
While reminded of the air rights, we were also told on several occasions, “Show us something and we will consider it.” And so we have—in many iterations, responding to all the questions the Park board rightly asked. Our concepts were drafted in hopes that the Park District could accomplish some of its own goals for connection, as well, with funds for the new library project.
In addition to this historical link and opportunity, keeping the Library in the downtown district provides several benefits to our growing downtown. The recent investment of the tunnel underneath the train tracks provides safe passage from the downtown area to and from the Library. This connection is beneficial to our downtown both for residents and businesses, as the library has over 250,000 visitors a year. These visitors would also be enjoying the park while they are at the library – a win, win, win.
Lastly, moving to another location has some financial considerations. The library owns its land and has a parking lot already constructed. Other locations would have an acquisition cost and likely require parking to be constructed that would exceed the $900,000 budgeted for relocation while the library is constructed. In addition, to date, there are no locations mentioned that have been deemed viable, when considering land size, water retention issues, and parking lot options.
The Library Board is hopeful we can come to an agreement with the Park Board soon on bringing a new library to our great community. We are keenly aware of the urgency and the frustration of taxpayers. If we come to this from a place of partnership, in the spirit of collegiality and cooperation, we can realize this tremendous opportunity to enhance the experience of both library and park, and the two can flourish together, in the heart of our village.