The need for a new library

A great city needs a great library — one that truly reflects the value its community puts on education and opportunity for everyone.

The Champaign Public Library outgrew its current home within a few years of its opening in 1978. Since then, the collection size has doubled and library use has tripled. A serious shortage of space and a number of building deficiencies limited the library’s ability to serve the community.

When the current facility was developed in the 1970s, plans were scaled back and construction quality was sacrificed to fit a budget that was cut in half. As a result, the library building could not be expanded upward and was energy inefficient and difficult to maintain.

Unacceptable conditions in the building included:

  • Inadequate seating for comfortable, quiet reading
  • Limited space for children‘s services
  • No room to expand collections or add computers
  • Extensive leaking from roof and window walls
  • Poor energy efficiency and excessive energy costs
  • Insufficient electrical, phone, and data outlets
  • Inadequate meeting room space
  • Inefficient, glaring lighting that made reading difficult
  • Extreme overcrowding in staff work areas

Reuse of the current library

The possibility of reusing any or all of the existing facility was carefully examined early in the planning process, but deemed impractical. Shortcuts in construction also didn‘t allow upward expansion of the existing building. Champaign needed a new library.

Growing library use

Use of the our library has increased dramatically in the past few years. In 2000, the number of items borrowed (circulation) was just over 1 million. In 2005–06, it topped 1.6 million. That‘s more than 21 items borrowed for every person in town.

In that same year:

  • Visits totaled 640,321, an average of 9.4 per capita (well above the recent Illinois average of 5.3).
  • Meeting rooms were hopping, with 1,112 uses (public and library events).
  • Staff answered 122,674 questions, about 340 every day.
  • We issued 5,631 new library cards and had over 30,000 total card holders.

Benefits to our city

Our new library will bring benefits to help our city, as well as its people, thrive. A first-class library will benefit Champaign by:

  • Attracting new residents. A quality public library that provides exciting educational and cultural opportunities will make this a more attractive place to live and to raise children.
  • Encouraging business development and growth. Businesses often visit the public library when considering whether to locate in a community because it gives a sense of whether the community is forward-looking and willing to support activities that enrich the lives of residents.
  • Increasing revenues. The more business we attract and retain, the more sales and property tax will grow. Community pride swells and property values go up when a new public library is built.

Planning room for growth

A schematic design for the new library was initially approved by the Champaign City Council in April 2003. However, in the spring of 2004, library staff discovered that the planned adult areas had room for only 12 percent more shelving than the existing library had. At a normal growth rate, those shelves would have been full in only one to three years. Additional space was needed to ensure that the library could meet the community‘s rapidly growing needs for years to come.

The Library Board of Trustees recommended adding one 25-foot-wide, two-story bay on the west end. The first and second floors each gained 4,500 square feet. The new space on the second floor provided room for 64 percent more shelving for the adult collections than the old library had — generous room for growth.

While the April 2003 plans for the new library included only a partial basement, the option of a full lower level had been considered from the start. Basement space is efficient because it costs less to build per square foot than other floors. The board also recommended expanding to a full lower level, bringing the building‘s total square footage to 122,600 feet. The lower level will have a Friends Book Sale room plus considerable space for future expansion.

The Champaign City Council voted in February 2005 to accept the schematic plans for the new 122,600-square-foot Main Library.