Bloomington Public Library expansion on schedule

By Bob Pepalis for Chronicle Media

Expansion of the Bloomington Public Library should be completed by the end of this year.
(Photo courtesy of Bloomington Public Library)

The Bloomington Public Library’s $25.2 million expansion project remains on schedule, according to Jeanne Hamilton, library director. It should be completed by the end of the year.

“Since 1976, Bloomington’s population has grown by 92 percent while the library building has had one expansion, increasing space by only 24 percent,” Hamilton said. “This population growth has also resulted in a demand for more space for collections, programs, study rooms, community meeting rooms, and parking.

“In addition to a larger population, the facility has aged and technology has changed a lot, both of which have led to the need for updates.”

In addition to traditional library materials, the library offers services such as programming for all ages, study spaces, meeting spaces, computer access, Wi-Fi access, and access to new technologies, according to Hamilton.

The expansion and renovation project focuses on education, innovation, and access, she said. It will add a second children’s programming room; add eight study rooms, up from one; and increase community rooms to three, with the ability to combine them into one large space. A sensory-friendly room will be available as well as a nursing nook and a discovery zone for interactive kids’ play.

When the project is concluded, library patrons will find wider aisles and more accessible shelving. A drive-up window will be added, as well. New features such as a new computer lab for quiet computing and computer learning programs, two podcast recording studios, and an innovation lab that will feature items like a 3D printer will be added. All of this will allow improved and expanded library services for the community and enhance the quality of life in Bloomington, Hamilton said.

A 46,000-square-foot building was constructed at 205 E. Olive Street in 1976 to house Bloomington Public Library and meet the needs of the 41,000 people who resided in the city at the time, according to Hamilton.

Forty-one years later, an assessment of the existing library building was completed by the Farnsworth Group of Bloomington. A long-range vision for the future was created; it incorporated community focus groups and a program to build spaces and amenities. The company was contracted to provide preliminary planning and design services.

Then, Engberg Anderson Architects was hired in 2020 by the Library Board. The group used feedback from the community and the Farnsworth Group information to develop a conceptual site plan and conceptual building design, according to Hamilton. That plan plus a cost estimate was presented to the Bloomington City Council, which approved 56 percent of the project using a $14.2 million, tax-funded bond.

The library’s share of project expenses comes from a $5.68 million grant from the state, $4.1 million in library reserve funds, and $1.25 million in donations from the community, according to the library building project website. Construction progress can be observed on the library’s website.

“The library’s mission is to provide our diverse community with a helpful and welcoming place that offers equitable access to the world of ideas and information and supports lifelong learning,” Hamilton said.