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The Jacksonville Public Library's Addition and Renovation Project

Kathleen Roegge


In 1901, Jacksonville lawyer Mr. L. O. Vaught wrote to Andrew Carnegie requesting funds to build a library. Once a "proper and suitable location" was selected and the city council had passed a resolution agreeing to levy a tax to support the library, a $40,000 grant was received. The building, in Greek Revival style, was designed by Patton and Miller of Chicago.The following description first appeared in the February 22,1903, Jacksonville Daily Journal. "The building is constructed of Cleveland sandstone tooth-chiseled, with cornices and ornamentation of terra cotta to match. The roof is red conecera tile. It has a 15-foot concrete approach, with steps 24 feet wide with a 20-foot projection. The steps lead up to the entrance, which is ornamented with four corinthian stone pillars solid fluted, supporting a pediment that is richly ornamented. The visitor enters through this portico and steps into a small vestibule, from this vestibule swing doors admit into a large hallway and passage through another set of doors brings you in the delivery space of the library proper."

The focus of the interior is a rotunda with a dome containing a skylight in the center. Encircling the dome are 48 filament lights. On either side of the rotunda are reading rooms featuring fireplaces with gas logs, shelving along the walls, tall windows and high ceilings. When the library first opened in 1903 the children's area was in the west reading room and a general reading room in the east. The circulation area was at the south end of the rotunda with a two-tiered stack area that featured a glass paneled floor behind it. An iron staircase with heavily carpeted steps led to the second level of the stack area. One each level were 10 ranges of shelving, purchased from the Library Bureau, made of steel with decorative brackets and wood shelves.

Downstairs in the basement were the public restrooms and other rooms used by the library board and for meetings, lectures, storyhours and classes using the library to do research. Later, these rooms would be used to house technical services, special collections, large print and the children's collection. Over the years, other changes were made such as new lighting and heating systems. In 1962, an elevator was installed to replace the book lift.

Need for more space.

In the 1960s, the library board began exploring ways to expand the library space. In 1967 the architectural firm of Laz & Edwards was hired to conduct a feasibility study of the building. The January 8, 1968, issue of the Jacksonville Journal Courier reported that at a special session architect and library board member from Champaign, Russell Dankert, told local library board members that "the present old Carnegie building cannot be renovated to provide adequate space for present and future expanding library services." Furthermore, he did not recommend building on to the present structure, but he encouraged board members to consider a new building when possible.

The article goes on to refer to a report and recommendation made in October 1966 by Harold Godstein of the University of Illinois Graduate School, Library Science. The reports state that the "general characteristic of most old Carnegie buildings is the lack of suitable reader space within easy reach of books and other materials. The double-tier stack section has been more of a deterrent than a help to patrons seeking materials." Both reports emphasized that the existing building was inadequate for its present needs and recommended a ground level building that can be controlled by fewer personnel with more efficiency. Fortunately, in 1968, the sitting library board did not follow through on these recommendations.

We still need more space

Over the next 20 years the board continued to maintain the building, making small improvements when possible. They replaced the windows and doors, a



Jacksonville Public Library—new/expanded westside view

new boiler room was built and both the children's and meeting rooms were remodeled. Space continued to be a problem for the library, and in 1990, with the passage of the American with Disabilities Act, accessibility became an added problem.

In 1989, Robert Plotzke was hired as building consultant for the library's future expansion plan. A Citizen's Building Advisory Committee was formed to research and plan how to implement the program. After interviewing several architectural firms, Frye Gillan Molinaro of Chicago was hired to design a plan to add to and renovate the present building. They were selected for the project because of their experience in building libraries and, especially, their work on Carnegie buildings. At the end of 1991 the board had approved a design and were ready to approach the city for help to fund the project.

Funding then became the main focus of the building project. Cost estimates of the building ranged from $1.3 to $2.6 million. At the end of 1993, a Capital Campaign Committee was formed to solicit private donations. The library applied for a "Live and Learn" construction grant from the state asking for the full amount of $250,000. Early in 1994, with almost $500,000 in pledges from the fund raising campaign, it was decided to go out for bids. The library was awarded the construction grant and the city agreed to help fund $1.1 million toward the library expansion plan.At that time, the project was turned over to the Jacksonville Public Building Commission to oversee the construction phase. Construction began in June 1994.

During the design phase of the construction, a major concern was meeting the guidelines in the American With Disabilities Act. Within Jacksonville are the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired, the Illinois School for the Deaf and many group homes. Meeting the needs of the disabled population became a high priority of the construction project. Great care was taken to insure that the entire building, even the original Carnegie structure, would be accessible.

Problems of the original building included no accessible route from either parking lot around the building, entrance ramps that were too steep, an elevator that was not large enough for most of the wheelchair patrons, and inadequate space for moving around the shelving and seating. There also were no accessible water fountains or restrooms.

Phase one of the building program was a three-story addition to the south of the building. The new space would allow the library to stretch out its collection and operations, providing easy access around shelving, equipment and furniture. Built into the addition would be a larger elevator, new stairs, accessible restrooms and water fountains. On all three levels of the addition there would be a stack area containing shelving that would meet the ADA guidelines. Phase two, renovating the Carnegie Building, was the greater challenge. Essentially the building was



Original Floorplan



gutted and then redesigned to meet present accessibility needs. At the same time efforts were made to retain the historic ambience of the library. The front reading rooms and rotunda area were renovated to reflect the style of the era when the building first opened. The dome was repaired and painted, it's skylight opened and the 48 carbon filament lightbulbs that once encircled it were restored. In the east and west reading rooms historically correct lighting was installed and the fireplaces, removed in the past, were put back in their original places but with new mantels and surrounds. The east reading room houses the library's video, audio and new book collections. The west room houses the current periodical/magazine, oversize non-fiction and large print collections. Both of the rooms will remain spacious with room to move around the easy chairs, tables, shelving and other furniture.

The two-tier stack area in the south end of the building was removed and a new third floor built in its place. The new circulation area and offices were placed in the area where the lower level of the stacks were on the main floor of the original building. The new circulation desk includes a counter designed for the disabled patron. All public offices have hardware that meets ADA guidelines. The new third floor houses the reference, back periodical and special collections. Though the original shelving, once it had been refabricated, was used in the reference and back periodical areas, special care was taken to ensure that the aisles between all shelving met ADA guidelines.

The Youth Services circulation desk, young adult area, YS audio-visual collection, a new storyhour/ activity room and an office for the YS librarian are located on the lower level. Located in the front of the building is a renovated public meeting room. A special corridor, usually closed to the public, was created for easy access for persons with disabilities. The custodian's room, staff room, kitchen and the technical



services department are also on this level. All hardware on this level also meets ADA guidelines. A new entrance with the push button doors was built on the west side of this level. When finished there will be an accessible ramp directly from the west parking lot leading to this entrance. Included in the site work design is disabled parking near the new entrance.

Other changes will continue to ensure that the library is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act—ADA signs for all permanent areas and rooms will be made; the library's policies will be revised to ensure they contain no discriminatory language; and all library information will be published in both regular and large print editions. The library will continually look for ways to make both its building and its services accessible to our disabled population.


In the beginning of this project ADA had just been enacted. The entire building program became a learning process for the library board, staff and others involved. As the library director, I gradually became more involved in the construction process and realized that ADA made everyone nervous. All the architects, contractors and inspectors that worked on the project each had their own interpretation of what ADA required. It became very important for me as the library's representative to be knowledgeable about the guidelines. I began to read any and all information I could find concerning ADA and libraries.

For example, one of the most confusing points was the different standards for new construction and historic renovation. Because our project included both, we often were unsure which guideline we needed to follow. The most helpful decision I made, after being advised by Jeanne Flynn at the State Library, was to contact the Springfield Center for Independent Living. They were able to reassure all involved that we were on the right track. They also pointed out small problems that existed, like a shelf under the bathroom mirror, that we will work to correct.

We still have items that need to be worked on and corrected. Once the new entrance is completed I plan to have a few of our disabled patrons walk through the building to see if they encounter any obstacles. I am confident that once everything is completed, our renovated and expanded Carnegie Building will be accessible to our entire community.

* Kathleen Roegge, Director, Jacksonville Public Library.


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